Ofer - Release on Bail, Torture

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Hava Halevi, Avital Toch (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Court of Appeals   

Judge: Sgt.-Major Zvi Lekah

Detainee: Muhammad Othman

Othman is a peace activist from Jayyous who was on his way from a visit to Norway when he was arrested on Allenby Bridge and accused of meeting with a Hizbullah operative in Amman.

Defense: Atty. Mahmud Hassan

Category: Appeal of Salem court decision of 19.10.09

The prosecutor, Captain Michael Avitan, unlike other prosecutors and other functionaries of the court, refuses to give me his name, saying it would appear on the protocol. During the trial he said very little, leaving the talking to the judge.

Nine representatives of various international organizations were present in court.

Before the trial began, the detainee's family came in: they kissed him, which made the guards very jittery, but the incident passed peacefully.

Defense: Some of the people we summoned are still being checked at the gate. Please wait.

Judge: We have a busy day ahead of us. Let's start. I have the confidential file before me.

The defense appeals the 11 days detention. The police had requested 23 days to conclude the investigation, but the court ordered remand for 11 days. The investigator did not adduce any new evidence or substantiate other charges (as stipulated by the Supreme Court's demand for "credible suspicion"). After a month-long investigation the prosecution must bring more substantial evidence or new testimonies. A detailed plan is required, based on developments in the investigation, not like this report, which seems to lack purpose.

The existing procedure is flawed: it allows a police investigator to claim that he is not involved in the investigation because it is conducted by the GSS.

Judge: The investigator described what had been done and what still needs to be done; he responded to specific paragraphs in the report.

Defense: In Clause 2 "the detainee is in the custody of GSS..."

Judge: Your point is clear, but it is unsubstantiated. He answered all the questions and represented all the agencies involved.

Perhaps he did not answer because the file is confidential.

Defense: The investigator claims that the detainee is under GSS jurisdiction and he (the investigator) is not involved. I expect the investigator to be in possession of all the facts.

Judge: The claim is baseless.

Defense: Our main argument is that illegal methods were used against our client. After the court hearing, the interrogators conduct was aimed at attrition.

On 15.10 the detainee was interrogated for 15 hours straight. The continuous sitting position was aimed at punishing the detainee for the answers he was giving and at making him admit to things he had not done.

The interrogation started at13:45 PM and ended at 1:20 AM. On another day he was interrogated for 18 hours with two 10- minute breaks. He was handcuffed in a chair. An interrogator named Amit threatened to implicate his family, interfere with his brother's plea bargain and impose on Othman an administrative detention.

The suspect provided his version of events. He opened his email and printed out all the documents, letters and airline ticket. All in the interrogation room.

If after a month there are still suspicions, it behooves the investigators to produce them and prove his guilt.

In this case the investigation is an aim in itself. The long interrogations did not yield new proof or developments. The detainee gave his version and he sticks to it.

It is our contention that the detention is politically motivated.

Judge: There is no connection between the detention and his political activity. There is a concrete charge of meeting with a Hizbullah agent in Jordan and recruiting on behalf of that organization.

Defense: The man with whom the defendant met in Jordan is not a Hizbullah agent and the reason was not membership in any organization. The defendant was not aware of the other person's affiliation. He denies the allegation and requests to be shown proof such as tapes or testimony against him. The interrogators claim they know everything and want him to confess...

The Defense asks the court to put an end to this sort of interrogation.  Forcing a detainee to sit on a chair for hours is in contravention of a Supreme Court decision from 1999. Quite often, the interrogator goes to eat or takes a break, leaving the detainee on a chair. Why make him sit, handcuffed when he is not interrogated?

The earlier court ignored decisions handed down on 29.9.09 and 8.10.09 that the investigation should not exceed 12 days. I hereby appeal the decision from 19.10.09 and move to release the detainee on bail with periodic reports to the police.

  • - The suspect is the only defendant in the case, thus he cannot subvert the investigation or change statements even if he is released.
  • - He is not a danger risk. He's 33 years old. He agrees not to use cell phones and emails.

The prosecutor (rising for the first time): He has ties to Hizbullah, so he's bound to subvert the investigation.

Serous allegations... obvious security risk... the court stipulated that whoever conspires against the state... security in the region... serious flight risk and subversion of the process, which involves ex-territorial agencies... etc. etc.

Defense: All the material in his possession has been confiscated, including his laptop. Everything has been printed out. They had a month and yet they could not come up with a convincing case. The investigators could have reconstructed every detail.

Here the hearing ended. The appeal for release on bail was denied by the judge. Since then, two more hearings took place. We did not attend those, so we will base our reports on the court protocols.

After the hearing, representatives of the German and Norwegian embassies met outside and told us of the interest that Othman's case has generated in Europe, both in the general public and in the political arena.