Ofer - Administrative Detention, Interrogation of Witness

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Hava Halevi, Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Courtroom 4
10 AM - Continuation of the trial of Adeeb Abu Rahme - ID 954902771,
Case No. 3336/09
Judge: Captain Arye Dorny
Prosecutor: Adi Noy
Defense: Gaby Lasky, Neri Ramati

Adeeb Abu Rahma is a taxi driver, resident of Bil'in, married with 9 children. He has been detained for over four months, since Friday 10.7.09.
All motions to release him on bail have been denied because of objections by the prosecution.
(Additional information about his detention can be found in MachsomWatch website in Ofer reports from 23.8.09, 15.8.09, 17.9.09 and 17.11.09).

In today's evidentiary hearing the unreliability of the witnesses was made quite clear. Just like in the previous hearing (15.11.09), the defense exposed many inconsistencies in the testimonies. The prosecution continues to
summon witnesses. When they fail to show up, the hearing is postponed, again and again. The defendant continues to sit in detention. Perhaps this is the name of the game: not to prove guilt, but to remove from Bil'in the activists who oppose the fence and participate regularly in the demonstrations against its construction.

Today it is the turn of Witness No. 4: Sgt.-Maj. Nasser Suwad, who has been serving as a scout in the military for 12 years. He testifies that in the last 4-5 years he has witnessed dozens of demonstrations against the separation fence in Bil'in. In the demonstration when Abu Rahme was arrested, he was in charge of the PA system, which was mounted on a military jeep. It was he who made the announcements in Arabic warning the
residents not to enter the area designated as "closed military area" and not to approach the fence and the gate. He testifies that he identifies the defendant as the one who approached the gate and opened it. He recognizes him from many earlier demonstrations and because he is the only one in the dock. After Adeeb's arrest, the commander ordered the witness to drive him (with the help of two other soldiers) to the police station at
Sha'ar Binyamin., where they took his deposition about the event and the arrest. In his testimony he described faithfully what he had seen with his own eyes.

Attorney Lasky cross-examines the witness. His answers regarding his police statement are problematic: the witness says he signed the statement, but the statement in the file does not bear his signature. In it the witness identifies the defendant by his ID number, but this detail could not have been known to him, since the defendant did not carry his ID card. The witness has no explanation for this discrepancy. "I know his face. How could I know what his ID number is?"
There is inconsistency between the witness's testimony and what is seen in the security tape of the incident, now in the hands of the prosecution. In the tape (viewed by the prosecution and the defense in the courtroom, but with the judge and witness absent) one can see many people going through the gate and moving toward the fence, but the defendant is NOT among them.
In his testimony he said that there were no other people at the scene, and that only the witness and another man (a Jewish leftwing activist) opened the gate.

The hearing resumed after lunch. Two witnesses who were supposed to testify did not show up. The defense claims that no real effort was made by the court to bring in those witnesses. In other words, the trial drags
on and Adeeb continues to sit in jail.

The next hearing - hopefully with the witnesses - is set for 27.12.09
(Attempt will be made to hold it earlier either on 10.12.09 or 17.12.10).

2:30 PM
Courtroom No. 3 

Appeal against the continued detention of Muhammed Othman.
(See earlier reports on this case: Salem 19.10.19 and Ofer 22.10.09)

Judge: Lieut.-Col. Nathanel Benishu
Prosecution: Michael Avitan
Defense: Mahmud Hassan (from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) 

Muhammed Othman from the village of Jayyous was arrested on 22.9.09 at Allenby Bridge on his way home from a lecture tour and conferences in Norway. It was part of his campaign against the separation wall.
For most of his detention he was barred from seeing an attorney. At first he was held at Kishon detention facility (Jalame), then he was transferred to Ohaley Kedar in Beer Sheba where he shared a cell with police plants.
Later, he was returned to Kishon where he claims the interrogators threatened him, that if he did not admit the charges, he would be put under administrative detention. He rejected the allegations and was remanded in
custody for 8 more days. This is being appealed today. It is the second time his attorney has submitted an appeal for his release. The Appellate Court, which had rejected the previous petition, predicated the remand on new evidence to be found during the prolonged investigation, since the purpose of detention is the search for new evidence.

For sixty days the investigators could not gather enough evidence against Muhammad Othman to warrant an indictment. Justice Benishu, Deputy President of the Appellate Court, heard both sides and read the
confidential file. Apparently, he did not deem Othman a "danger to state security" and decided to release him on very high bail and with various restrictions until the indictment is submitted and a trial is held to prove his guilt or innocence.
But a military judge, high-ranking as he may be, is not independent of the security system of which he is part. His authority is secondary to that of the regional military commander whose decisions are endorsed by the
Military Court for Administrative Affairs. A day after the decision to release Othman, on 23.22.07, the military commander issued an on order to put Muhammad Othman under administrative detention. Two days later, on 25.11.09, a "judicial review" conducted behind closed doors, as is always the rule in administrative detention cases, sent Muhammad to Keziyot Prison for three months, and there's no knowing what will happen to him next.

Just a reminder: the international humanitarian law permits administrative detentions only in extreme cases of severe danger to state security. To be sure, Muhammad Othman is not the only Palestinian incarcerated at Keziyot under administrative detention for refusing to admit the allegations against him and as a deterrence to activists protesting the separation wall and violations of human rights.

There were about ten other people in the audience of the courtroom: representatives of various European and Canadian diplomatic delegations and representatives of human rights organizations. They came to support the peace activist.
The defense attorney explained the circumstances of the appeal and answered their questions.