Ofer - Stone Throwing, Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W.
Morning and afternoon sessions
My day at Ofer began at 10 AM and ended at 6 PM. This is what happens when you come to attend a specific hearing assuming it will take place in the morning, then it turns out it's been rescheduled for the afternoon.
I had plenty of time to explore the megalomaniacal renovations the compound has undergone since last week. The entrance now resembles those notorious terminals at the checkpoints. A visitor has to walk through a long, narrow fenced path leading to a tiny cubicle where the body searches are conducted. You hand your ID to a soldier behind a fortified glass partition, then you reach the waiting area, which has also undergone changes.
I spent part of the morning at the Appeals Court, mostly observing the appeal in the case of a Bil'in detainee, Muhammad Ahmad Issa Yassin, ID No. 853035913 - Case No. 1163/10
Judge: Sergeant-Major Zvi Lekah
Defense: Nery Ramati
The defense informs the judge that the detainee's family is held up at Beituniya Checkpoint (it is 10:30) and requests that his client be allowed to meet with his relatives when they arrive. The judge grants the request.
Muhammad Yassin was arrested 3 months ago on a charge of throwing rocks during a weekly Bil'in demonstration . The army left several summons at his house ordering him to report to the police for interrogation, but Muhammad did not show up. This is the main reason why the court refused to release him.
The defense cites precedents when detainees were released even though they failed to report to the police. Moreover, the attorney says his client works in Ramallah and therefore was not at home when the soldiers came looking for him in Bil'in.
Decision will be handed down tomorrow.
HE WAS NOT RELEASED.
After a break (at 2:00 PM) began an evidentiary hearing in the case of Adeeb Ahmad Abu-Rahme - ID No. 954902771 - Case No. 3336/09 - a resident of Bil'in.
Judge: Major Arye Dorni
Prosecutor: Captain Adi Noy
Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky
(The last evidentiary hearing was on 10.11.09 (see earlier reports in the case of Adib Abu Rahme from 23.8.09, 15.9.09 and 17.9.09.)
The defendant's wife, his eldest daughter and 2 other female relatives were present in court.
In the previous evidentiary hearing 2 Bili'n youths who had incriminated 33 Bil'in residents testified for the prosecution (one is 16 years old, the other 17). They denied most of their earlier police statements and were consequently declared hostile witnesses. But the damage had already been done: in the intervening months the army had arrested the people mentioned by the two youths during their interrogation. Among them was Adeeb Abu Rahme who was arrested in mid-July 2009. The court refused to release him on bail because the indictment included, besides rock throwing [at the Bil'in weekly demonstration] also "incitement to rock throwing".
Because of the ‘incitement' charge Adeeb Abu Rahme has been in detention for seven months now, and there's no knowing when the "conclusion of the proceedings" will occur. Most probably, the court will make the penalty coincide with time served, as is its wont. There will be grounds and justifications, no doubt.
Adeeb Abu Rahme is not even a member of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Fence, so he is not involved in planning the demonstrations. According to the defense, there is no evidence to substantiate the allegation of incitement.
Adeeb has 10 children and he is the only breadwinner (as taxi driver) of this large family. Such a long incarceration is a severe blow to the family. In conversation with him he says repeatedly that all he wants is to support his family and protest against the land grab perpetrated in his village by the building of the fence.
It is quite obvious that the military court uses Adeeb's case as a precedent and as a deterrent to other participants in the struggle against the fence. This is what befalls those who act against the Israeli army.
There was another evidentiary hearing today to which the prosecution summoned 2 additional witnesses.
Prosecution Witness No. 7: a (female) soldier watcher.
The soldier testified that she had watched ten demonstrations in Bil'in. The court has 2 discs (one filmed by the witness). The prosecutor asks her to identify the defendant in the film.
Watching disc No. 1, the witness points to a man in a white shirt touching the fence and states that this is Adeeb Abu Rahme.
In another part she again identifies the defendant, who now wears a red shirt and is opening the yellow gate (leading to Bil'in lands) and adds that she also identifies a "leftist" who was taken into custody the same day.
In the second disc marked "Palestinian and Leftist" the witness points to a man hanging a flag on the fence and says that this is Adeeb Abu Rahme.
The prosecution's asks how she identifies people, and the soldier replies, "We have a booklet of felons: whoever breaks the law, throwing rocks etc. we document it, we take their mug shot and put it in a book with the name of that person. The defendant is in that booklet." She later explains that she identifies people by their height and clothes. "This is my regular job."
In cross-examination the defense asks the witness how she identifies people by the color of their shirt when several people wear the same color.
Another question: in the film we see people entering the zone between the fences. How many people were there?
Answer: about thirty.
Q: At what point did the one you claim he's the defendant enter... was he among the first?
A: No, he was not among the first.
Q: In your statement you do not mention the many other people who entered the closed military area illegally.
A: No need. You see it in the film.
Q: Is the Israeli guy [arrested together with the defendant] included in the Booklet of Felons?
A: No, it includes only residents of Bil'in.
Q: You stated that you did not see the defendant throwing rocks during this demonstration. Did you see him do so in another demonstration?
A: No, he did other things, such as hang flags - but he did not throw rocks.
Q: Did you see the defendant divide the youngsters into two groups?
Thus the defense focused on the witness's ability to identify the defendant with certitude.
After a 15-minute break prosecution witness number 8 entered: a police investigator.
He states that he does not remember the interrogations per se [he interrogates about 6 detainees a day] so he relies on notes.
The examination, both by the prosecutor and by the defense, focuses on the method he used for interrogating the two youngsters from Bil'in who incriminated the defendant (among others) in order to check their credibility.
In the cross-examination the defense asks if the investigator is qualified to interrogate youths. The answer is no.
Was a parent present when the 16-year old was interrogated? This, the witness says, is not within his competence, only those in charge of the investigation decide this... The prosecutor later stated that, "The Israeli Youth law does not apply to the region. The witness took the statement in accordance with security legislation that does not require special qualifications..."
Defense to witness: The [boy who incriminated the defendant] gave you a list of people who allegedly joined him in throwing rocks. Why didn't you ask him for specific dates when he actually threw rocks?
Witness: I don't remember. I read what's in my notes.
This answer was repeated throughout the hearing, also with regards to the other incriminator.
Thus it went until 6 PM.
Hearing for the defense was set for 28.2.10 at 9:15!
The defense will summon three witnesses. The defendant too will testify.