Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Maltreatment

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Norah Orlow, Hava Halevi

Translation: L.W.

Defendant: Nader Ismail Jubril Abu Zidia - File # 2900/07 


Advc. Ismail Tawil

Panel of Judges: Major Sharon Rivlin Ahai, Major Menahem Lieberman, Major Zvi Heilbronn

Till now we do not know what the charges against Zidia are, since the deliberations have centered on minor contentions of appeal against the admissability of his confessions obtained by improper means.

The prosecutor, Tali Keret (Blank), submitted to the court two police statements from the defendant and five memoranda recorded during interrogation, and requested the court to reject the defendant's contentions regarding improper pressure during the interrogation - in layman's language, torture. The tortures suffered included, according to him: laying him on his back on a low chair, with hands tied to the front legs and legs to the rear legs of the chair, and leaving him in this position for a long while; blows; slaps; spitting on the photo of his dead brother; indecent references to his mother; sleep deprivation; being thrown on the floor, blindfolding for long periods. All this and other small items like shaking tables, threats and curses.

The judges listened quietlyto the gruesome list and to the words of the prosecutor who said that it was all in the fertile imagination of the defendant. Not by chance did she say this, but because the GSS interrogators who investigated the accused, and who, according to him, perpetrated all these acts, were called to bear witness and did, in fact, do so (from the court protocols): "Credibly and clearly, both in the main interrogation and in the cross examination, they left no shadow of doubt that no improper pressure was used on the defendant - his confession was given of his own free will, so that now all that can be assumed is that he is trying to remove himself from the threat of a verdict in any way that he can, and if that includes false accusations against his interrogators, then so be it."

The matter of free will plays a respectable role in the military courts. How free can that will be, if its owner is detained in the Occupation's prisons, and GSS interrogators describe to him, sometimes for weeks, what they will do to him or to his mother - let alone more extreme means. And who will the judges believe?

In the trial of Ghassan Haled, the lecturer in Law at A-Najah University, the judge suggested to the lawyer to leave aside the subject of torture, and said: "During 40 years of trials in the military courts, no contention was accepted in the minor trials."

In today's trial we asked ourselves: if the accused Abu Zidia did confess of his own free will, why was there need for two police statements and five memoranda? And why did the interrogations go on for more than three weeks?

Abu Zidia's lawyer, Isamil Tawwil, argued heatedly that the confessions were obtained by illegal means. The man signed, not knowing what was written in them...

But the court was not impressed, and set the Evidentiary Hearings for 8.2.09 and 22.2.09.

After lunch we wanted to attend Hussam Shaheen's second case. We reported on his first case at length on 20.2.07 and 22.10.07. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. This time he is stands for trial following incrimination by a family member.

We (the accused, his parents and us) waited for the entrance of the judges, the defense attorney and the prosecutor at least half an hour in an empty courtroom, while a plea bargain was being arranged between defense lawyer Fida Kawwar and the prosecutor, who at first demanded more than ten years imprisonment, but was now willing to settle for four years. But then the defense attorney surprised the court by requesting an adjournment to a remote date, as he was considering petitioning the High Court of Justice regarding the handling of the previous file.

His contention was that this file could influence deliberations on the previous file in the High Court.

In his opinion, the previous case was based on error because of a wrong identification of the defendant.

The judges accepted his request, and accordingly the next Evidentiary Hearing was postponed to 13.5.09.