Salem - Danger to Regional Security, Remand Extension

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Revital Sella (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Third Remand Extension of Muhammad Othman Azat Mustafa, ID 901095380

Judge: Lieut. -Colonel Eliyahu Nimni
Investigator: Major Lutuf Mar'i
Defense: Atty. Mahmud Hassan

Due to the general disorder reigning at the Shomron [Salem] Military Court these days, many who should have been in court were late, and the judge, after having shown up, kept coming and going. The detainee, however, was already there, the defense was present and the detainee's father was sitting on the bench reserved for families of the suspects. This turned out to be a boon, allowing attorney and client to talk at length, undisturbed, (comparatively speaking). Father and son communicated with hand gestures and the spectators exchanged views.
The father - bearded, gaunt, and ashen, with big eyes - sat in his corner crying. Atty. Hassan walked over and gave him a big hug. Two representatives of Pax Christi, whom I had met at the gate, told me that they had visited the family at Jayyous the day before. In the meantime the attorney caught up with his client about what had transpired since their last encounter. He later used this information during the hearing.
When he tried to give his client a glass of water, three guards rushed to stop him. Apparently, this is forbidden.

Starting Point
The defense's position is that Muhammad Othman's detention is unwarranted, thus the entire investigation is not aimed at obtaining information but at punishing him. This is what he said in court. The hearing opened with his objection to the police's request for 23-day remand extension for further investigation. This was the first time I heard a defense attorney exposing the legal system's failure to defend a client.

The Hearing - The Case for the Defense
The hearing finally began at 11 AM and it lasted about an hour, which is inordinately long for such discussions that usually end within ten minutes.
Attorney Hassan interrogated the investigator about the prosecution of the case, offering his own interpretation, based, no doubt, on what he heard from his client.
For instance, he claimed that on October 15, his client was tied to a chair and was under investigation
for 11 hours. In response, the investigator said that that day yielded a five-page testimony (included in the confidential material handed to the judge). The attorney countered that either parts of the testimony were not recorded because they did not correspond to what the interrogator's wanted to hear, or the suspect was tied to a chair for 11 hours as a form of punishment, not investigation. To corroborate his claim the attorney said that his client had fallen asleep in his chair and water was poured on him to awaken him.
The investigator claimed he knew nothing about this.
At any rate, the attorney insisted, this procedure is prohibited. Similarly, the court had struck down another prohibited method of intimidation, threatening to hurt the suspect's sister. Furthermore, all this time, Othman had been kept in solitary confinement.
The attorney reiterated his contention that the investigation had yielded no proof against his client and it was merely going around in circles. He wanted to know, why no police statement had been obtained from his client, even though he was arrested on Sept. 22.
The last hearing gave the investigator 12 additional days to complete the investigation.
The court had stated then that there was no progress, no specific allegations, no outside corroboration or additional suspects. The investigators had only his client's words and they kept asking him the same questions.
Moreover, the attorney said, his client cooperated with the interrogators, answering all their questions. He is 33 years old, with no prior record, and whatever he did, even if it is not to the GSS liking, was still legal.
As for the present charge - that he allegedly met a Hizbullah agent in Jordan, thus implying that he gave aid and comfort to that organization - the accused admitted that he had met someone in Jordan who gave him posters against the separation fence.
In sum, the attorney stated that there was no warrant to keep his client in custody. He has no criminal record, his place of residence is known, and he has a steady job and is a student. He should be released on bail since he poses no risk. His acts were perfectly legal.

The Case for the Investigation
The investigator was not very knowledgeable about the case. Whenever asked a question, he consulted his file at length. His answers were replete with "I don't know," " it's confidential," "I wasn't there," ask The GSS,"
"danger to security in the region," etc. He stated that further custody is mandated because release would vitiate the investigation and lead to security risk and flight from justice. This he recited without hesitation.
He also insisted that the suspect was deliberately lying.
The defense attorney, in his summation, wondered how, with such flimsy command of the case and its findings, the investigator could be so sure of himself.

The judge's statement
The judge pronounced the detainee's name as if hearing it for the first time. Apparently, the reverberation of this case around the world has not penetrated the walls of Salem Military Court.
After perusing the confidential file for a long time, the judge moved to extend the remand by 11 days -
until 29.10.09 - because there had been some breakthrough in the investigation, and there was danger to security in the region.
Well, who can blame the judge? From the point of view of the occupation machine, there is nothing more dangerous than a Palestinian who opposes violence and protests the separation fence by peaceful means. This is particularly true of the fence in Jayyous, where the Supreme Court had ruled that the fence is disproportionate and that its route needs to be changed.
The state has been ignoring the Supreme Court decision for years.

The defense appealed the remand extension. The appeal will be heard on Thursday, 22.10.09 at 9:30 at Ofer.

Muhammad Othman was released on 13.1.10 after having been detained in administrative detention from 23.11.09.  A press release published by the organisation Addameer (Prisoners' Support and Human Rights) contains Muhammad Othman's background:

Mohammad Othman, a youth coordinator with the Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), was released after 113 days in Israeli detention without charge or trial. Mohammad, 34, was arrested by Israeli soldiers on 22 September 2009 at the Allenby Border Crossing as he returned home to the West Bank from an advocacy tour in Norway. On 22 November, after 61 days of physically and psychologically exhausting interrogation, a military court judge ordered the end to Mohammad's interrogation. The next day, however, Mohammad was placed under administrative detention. Mohammad's administrative detention was renewed for a one month period on 22 December, but was later shortened by ten days by a military judge in the Court of Administrative Detaineesinfo-icon. Although administrative detention is legally permissible only in emergency situations, threatening the "security of the state," and not as substitute for prosecution where there is no evidence to obtain a conviction, the military judge reduced Mohammad's detention order on the grounds that there had been no serious developments in the investigation into his case. Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that Mohammad's administrative detention was clearly arbitrary and based on impermissible grounds, in severe derogation from Israel's obligations under law.