Two observers from Btselem were also present.
Two interesting legal hearings, one is a plea bargain and the other arguments for punishment. We came to them by chance after checking all the other huts which were empty or locked, though there were lists on the doors.Hut No.1 appeared completely deserted, with no lists of hearings on the door, though a process went on there which might be called "a judge but no justice." The hearing took place in a relatively large, quite empty hall, so the surroundings were more appropriate for the application of a legal process than the crowded rooms, the doors of which rarely closed dye to people entering and leaving. Because of the distance and the absence of lists we occasionally missed information.
First hearing: Case no. 4640/07
Defense attorney: Advc. Shahin
Today's hearing is intended as final arraignment.The case has two defenders, the regular one, who has not appeared today for the hearing, and a second who requested a continuance until receipt of all the case material. There ensued a very unclear hearing on the question of missing data and the setting of a new date. The defense attorney is prepared to extend the date as much as possible, even until April to the surprise of the judge ("it's only an arraignment"). Date set: 6/12/07.
Second hearing: Yihye Ashur
Defense attorney: Advc. Tawil
It evolves that, up to the moment of this hearing, Ashur was represented by Advc. Shahin, and then suddenly the family announced that Advc. Tawil will be representing him from now on. The interpreter hastened out to summon Tawil, who raced in and began to consult the accused.Date set for readings: 27/11/07.
Third hearing: Muhammad Awad Havshe from Ajul, north of Ramallah. His family now lives in Betuniah.
Defense attorney: Advc. Ahmad Safia (since Leah Tzemel quit his representation)
Awad is accused of membership, since 2005, in a military unit, carrying a bomb (an explosive belt), and trading in combat materiel.The prosecutor asks for a punishment that will deter others, for membership in the military unit and particularly for the acquisition of five kg. of explosives."Despite his clean record, the prosecution requests five years imprisonment: this is the bargain we have agreed on between us."Defense attorney: the accused admits the indictment. From a debate between the defense attorney and the judge it becomes clear that the prosecutor and the defense have reached a very misty understanding on "five years" - the prosecution's version being "not to exceed five years," as the defense puts it.
Advc. Safia details the periods in which Awad was indeed listed as a member and carried explosive belts, but was not at all active, did not initiate anything, and agreed only after many pleadings. A long debate about whether the belts were ready for use, and the conclusion of the judge that "at first he did not know, but as time went on he knew but it was of no significance."A long debate about precedents for punishment, mostly relying on verdicts after appeal with punishment for more severe transgressions set at four years imprisonment (colluding, laying charges). The defense attorney argues a precedent of 30 months for a similar offence, and asks for a sentence that will not exceed 30 months conditional, rather than actual imprisonment.
The accused: "I did not carry out any military activity, but only appeared as a name on lists. I am engaged to be married, and I want to return to life and get married."Judge's verdict given only in the afternoon because the next hearing was brought forward.
Accused: Mahmoud Adayis, Case No. 2740/06
Defence Attorney: Zaki Kamal
Today's hearing: arguments for punishment.
This case originally contained 15 detailed charges, necessitating a hearing before three judges. The indictment was reduced to four charges, and transferred to a single judge, who could decree up to 10 years imprisonment.
The charges: shooting, membership in a military unit, collusion for the purpose of causing death (transferred from suicide raid).
The judge notes at the beginning of the hearing that the court is not party to the plea bargain and the agreement between the parties is not binding on him. The prosecution is requesting 8 years imprisonment for the shooting, and "appropriate punishment, severe treatment," etc.
Advt. Kamal argues that the military courts are directed solely by punishment and retribution, and the courts should try to afford the accused some light at the end of the tunnel. The original indictment has been radically corrected, and therefore he recommended that the accused confessed to four charges in lieu of a long trial with presentation of proofs. Some three years have elapsed since the first offence (2003) and arrest (2006). In between he was also arrested by the Palestinian Authority for the same offence. The accused has expressed remorse and emphasized that he wanted to build his future. The family has sustained harsh economic damage and the accused's acts were the exception, not the norm.The defense attorney presents precedents from the appeals court on reduced or conditional sentences of no more than 3-4 years with a longer conditional term. Alternately the defense attorney asks to replace the eight year imprisonment by a fine.
The accused: "I am sorry about my mistakes, I want to return to my brothers, and don't want any more to harm the State of Israel or its security."The judge in these hearings was courteous, patient, and helpful to each of the sides in clarifying his intentions. His verdicts were not given while we were present at Ofer.