Ofer - Stone Throwing, Remand Extension

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Avital Toch, Hava Halevi

Translation: Marganit W.

The hearing began with one prosecutor who was later joined by another, who introduced new evidence.

On 18.2.10 we attended a remand extension hearing of Sabti Hawaja, accused of being a Hamas operative and of hurling rocks and fire grenades during a demonstration in Na'alin.
(See earlier report of this case on 9.2.10)

Once again, there is a list of 11 witnesses for the prosecution, incriminators, some of whom have no connection to the accused, only to other incriminators. For instance, prosecution witnesses 7-11 have connections to a seizure of gas canisters at Witness No. 3's house. What is the relevance? How is a prosecution witness - that we may or may not see at all - connected to captured grenades that someone admitted were seized and to this defendant?

Let's start with the allegation of being a Hamas activist. It turns out that it consisted of hanging posters of Hamas candidates in the elections 4 years ago. The elections were sanctioned by the Israeli government under pressure from the American administration.

Has the military legal system waited four years to prosecute him, or have they just found out about it during the interrogation of incriminators? What about democracy and free elections? Eventually, the prosecution admitted that the charges were only of rock throwing and not "providing services to Hamas". So now the allegations are about the weekly demonstrations in Na'alin.

The main witness in this case is Mustafa Amira. I hope we can hear his testimony, because he is the main incriminator. He testified that Sabti Hawaja participated in throwing fire grenades at the IDF. This witness's case had already been heard at the Military Court of Appeals, where it was determined that he was unreliable. Several people he had incriminated were later set free.

The defense attorney tells the court that according to police protocols, Sabti Hawaja was interrogated from 12:40 to 13:03, i.e., for 23 minutes. He was not asked about hanging posters 4 years ago and was not given a chance to disprove the allegations.

Now for the main charge: throwing rocks and a fire grenade at the Na'alin demonstration, as per the chief incriminator Mustafa Amira. The latter claimed that during the Feast of Sacrifice there was a huge demonstration in Na'alin where rocks and a fire grenade where thrown at an IDF jeep, setting it on fire. Except that the army, which records every incident meticulously, has no record of a burned jeep. The Court of Appeals, in Case No. 1311/10 found no reference to this event, determining that the testimony was not credible and the incriminator was unreliable.

What we have then is a third-year student from Abu-Dis University, living in a dorm and going home once a month, who after 23 minutes of interrogation - and without facing his incriminator(s) - was charged with throwing fire grenades at the IDF and thus may lose his freedom (probably paying a mandatory fine to boot).

At this point the prosecutor smiled victoriously and revealed an amazing fact, demonstrating how a trial should be conducted (there's a lesson here for other regimes): Indeed, no mention of the burned jeep had been found, BUT YESTERDAY the jeep commander was deposed (we have his name, to prove that the IDF is the "most moral army in the world"), substantiating the claim about the jeep and the fire grenade. The commander remembered everything, because it happened on Id Al Adha, which was a Saturday - the same date mentioned in the incriminator's statement. This new witness said that because it was on a Saturday, unlike the regular demonstrations that take place on Fridays, it was etched in his memory. Thus, said the prosecutor, we have a new evidentiary stage, which is markedly different from what was heard in the Court of Appeals.

Did you get this? Two and a half months after the events in the indictment took place, when all the details had been hashed out and all the testimonies had been taken and we were only waiting for the Military Judge's sanction, the prosecution found time to depose the commander of the jeep, who "happened to remember" the incident and all the details that the prosecution already possessed. It was a testimony made to order.

The defense wasn't buying any of this, stating simply that apparently the prosecution, when it realized that its evidence was insufficient and that the Court of Appeals could not find any substantiation for the allegation, deposed the commander to try to prove their and the incrimination's version, which were full of holes.  You cannot produce a witness two and a half months after the fact to testify anew and add to the original report. An army commander must report every incident in real time. He did just that, and his original report contained no mention of a burned jeep. The defense was not comfortable saying that a commander was changing his testimony according to the prosecution's needs, so he said that the incriminator, Mustafa Amira had lied.

If no jeep was burned, what happens now to the claim that Sabti Hawaja threw a grenade?

Smiling pleasantly again, the prosecutor then said that the jeep did not actually burn, it just ignited then extinguished. It wasn't a big deal, that's why the commander did not mention it in the original report on the incident.

In short, the jeep burned or didn't burn, was ignited then extinguished. They apparently forgot to update the incriminator and prep him to say that the jeep didn't actually burn down, but was only caught fire briefly. The whole case proved a legal embarrassment, and the judge ordered the hearing continued on Sunday 28.2.10, so the defense can examine the new evidence.

It was indeed a show fit for Purim.