Ofer - Plea Bargain, Minors

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Hagit Shlonsky, Hava Halevi

Translation: Jonathan M.

It's Wednesday, Purim for the Jews of Jerusalem and a curfew for the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Despite the holiday, trials are still taking place at Ofer in two courtrooms. The families are not attending since they are under curfew.

Courtroom 4

Judge: Major Shlomo Katz.

Prosecutor: Tali Keret

Muataz Mussa Abdalla Satih (case # 2446/08) I.D 9646450160

Charges: membership and activity [in an unlawful organization].

The defendant, 22 years old, has been in custody for 11 months, for hanging flags in some convention. The defense attorney, Jamal Hammed states that not only is the defendant illiterate, he cannot even speak, since he suffers from a developmental disability. The prosecution is pushing for a plea bargain.

The trial has been postponed to 11.5.09. The judge has no earlier slots. He promises that if the two sides reach a plea bargain, another judge could deal with the case at an earlier date.

- A young boy who is not represented. He says that he is represented by Nadi al Asir. The judge remands his custody and orders to allow him to call his family in order to obtain legal counsel. He will be brought before a judge this coming Sunday, 15.9.09.

Maher Yasin Muhammad Radaiyda (case # 4590/07) I.D 964295265

A very impressive man. He was arrested in August, 2007, for donating $10,000 for establishing a library in the village of Aibadiya, and being a Hammas member since 1997 until the day of his arrest..

Defense attorney: Ahlam Haddad.

Charge: holding a position in the Hammas.

Maher Radaiyda, 37 years old, a biology graduate of Bir Zeit university, is married and a father of five. He worked for the Palestinian education ministry, preparing Biology study programs until 2004. During that year Maher presented his candidacy to the Aibadiya regional council. Being a representative of the largest family in the village, he was elected and served as the head of the local council. As part of his duty, he told the court, he asked the legislative council guidance in promoting projects that would assist the villages. The legislative council directed him, along with other council heads, to an organization called "Alandwa AlAlmiya"(world lecture) that assisted local councils with infrastructure, education and library projects. This is where his troubles started..

In response to his attorney's questions, Maher Radaiyda told that in 2007 he went to Jordan for surgery. After the operation he traveled to Saudi Arabia, to the Alandwa ALAlamiya center, where he received $10,000. On his way back he stopped with his wife in Jordan, where they stayed for two months. In order not to postpone the building of the library, he gave $4,000 to a money changer to transfer the money to Aibadya, so that the library could be built without delay. The rest of the money stayed with him, together with the documentation proving its source. He was arrested crossing back from Jordan, and the documentation was confiscated. He managed to give the money to his wife who brought it back safely. Despite the long period that has passed since his arrest, Maher refused to accept a plea bargain and insists that he is innocent.

The cross examination focused on two subjects:

- His political history, i.e. who he voted for during the elections and to whom he turned for assistance in his capacity of head of the local council.

- His claim that some of his testimony was taken under stress and threats to hurt his family and that he would be sent to administrative detention if he does not cooperate with the investigation, i.e. admit to all the charges, including those he states were never said by him, but where added to the report by the interrogator, while he copied the text from a sheet of paper.

It was indeed interesting.

Prosecutor: How exactly did the interrogator force you to write down your testimony?

A: By threatening to place me and my wife under administrative detention.

Q: You wrote your testimony on 5.8.07?

A: Yes.

Q: Does that mean that was you were threatened only on that particular day?

A: I was threatened before, but there where no threats regarding my wife and family.

Q: Don't you care that you are receiving support from Hammas, an illegal organization?

A: I do not approach Hammas. I approach organizations that assist local councils.

Q: ...was any pressure put on you on 16.8.07? That is when you told about your passport.

A: Not just pressure. I was experimented on.

Q: What experiments?

A: They brought machines and connected them to my body. The machine was connected to a computer. The interrogator asked me questions and the machine told him if my answers were true or not. [It is important to note that the use of a polygraph is dependent on the approval of the person undergoing the interrogation, which was not given in this case].

Q: Why would the police and the GSS write down things that you claim you did not say?

A small wave of laughter sweeps over the courtroom.

Because of the late hour, and perhaps because of the Purim parties that awaited some of the participants, the cross examination ended. It will continue at a later date which has not been determined yet.