Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Tova Szeintuch, Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

This report deals mainly with underage detaineesinfo-icon (minors). There were more than ten of them present, some of whom have been in detention for more than 3 months. Two were wounded and one suffers from a heart condition
. We bring you the story of one of the injured kids. There are 343 minors in custody today, either in detention or in jail. Then there is the unusual case of a young woman detained for the second time for the same offense: "possession of a knife". And finally, the continuation of the trial of the clergyman from Hebron, Aadel Jenidy.

Judge: Major Sharon Rivlin-Ahai

Prosecutor: Captain Yael Cohen-Vagon

Defense: Atty. Issam Mrar

Defendant: Wael Yunes Ahmad Badr - ID 854690815, Case No.  5406/09

The minors walk into the court solemnly and confidently. When they see their families they smile and chat at length with their loved ones.

Most of the charges involve rock throwing and "incendiary objects". None of the incidents resulted in damage to people or property.

A minor named Ayoub Abed Alaruf Daraj is suffering from heart condition. The defense attorney asks to state in the protocol that he is transferring the relevant medical records to the physician of the detention center.

In her decision, Justice Rivlin-Ahai requests a doctor's report with an update on the defendant's medical condition.

Most of the minors are represented by Atty. Ayad Misk from the Palestinian DCI (Organization for the Protection of Children). He represents minors at Ofer while another attorney works at Salem. They are overburdened with cases and often delegate the defense of minors to prisoners' organizations for adult Palestinians. They all do it pro bono. Atty. Misk claims that 95% of minors' cases end in plea bargains, where the defendant confesses to something in order to spare himself jail time. There is hardly any chance a minor will be released on bail. The result is that over the years, thousands of Palestinian children have become criminals in the eyes of the Israeli occupation regime.

Waal, 16.5 years old, from Abu Dis.

On 27.9.09 he was shot in the foot during the "Al Aksa March". The bullet penetrated his hipbone. He was treated at the hospital in Ramallah, because they have no permit to go to Jerusalem. 3 months later, on 21.12.09 - in the middle of the night (2:30) "they came and took him from home." Because of his serious injury - he has not yet recovered - Waal was hospitalized at the GSS hospital in Ramle during his detention. His underage cousin is also incarcerated [we reported this to the relevant organizations]. We were told all this by his father. The hearing itself was very short. The Defense reported that the plea bargain with the prosecution hadn't yet been completed and so a 2-months extension was agreed upon, until 17.5.10. The injured minor, Wael, will wait at Ofer. He has time: he has his whole life before him....

The father told us about his son's friend from Abu Dis, Muhammad Mahmoud Halabia, whose leg was broken during his harsh interrogation at Ofer. This is hearsay and we're trying to verify the story.

Judge: Major Shlomo Katz

Prosecution: Captain Hagai Rothstein

Defense: Atty. Haled Alaraj, Ismail Tawil

Defendant: Aisha Faiz Ibrahim Ghanimat, ID 852740315, Case No. 4454/09

Charge: possession of a knife

Information from the Committee for (female) Political Prisoners: Aisha Ghanimat, 19, from Zurif near Hebron, was apprehended on 2.9.09 on her way to school. During her arrest, the soldier beat her severely, banging her head against a military jeep. She was brought to the detention center at the Russian Compound where she underwent interrogations. During the interrogations her hands were tied behind her back, the interrogators cursed her and spoke to her vulgarly. After three weeks she was transferred to Sharon Prison.

On 13.10.06, when she was 15, she was convicted to 10 months in jail. She was released on 20.7.07, a month ahead of schedule as part of a deal involving 256 Palestinian prisoners almost all of whom were one month away from release.

There were two hearings in her case, an hour apart. In the first, the defense attorney stated that he had just received the case and asked to postpone the hearing to 5.5.10. Aisha asked to address the court and the judge gave her permission. She described with great emotion how she and another woman (both security prisoners) were forced to get on a bus full of criminal prisoners (males). "We should have been transported in a separate vehicle. The guards at Nahshon spoke rudely to us and cursed us, and it was not for the first time."

During the second hearing (about which we found out by accident) the sides reached a plea bargain. As usual, the prosecutor presented a revised charge sheet: "possession of a knife" (without intent to stab). Aisha accepted the charges. The judge found her guilty. The prosecutor demanded 2 years in jail including incarceration for probation violation. Suddenly, the judge changed his mind. He called Aisha's father and asked him why Aisha committed the same offense twice. Was she all right? He turned to Aisha asking her if she knew why she was there, to which she replied, "I don't know why I'm here. I don't know how to use a knife." Whereupon the judge nullified his previous conviction and ordered Aisha sent to the GSS mental health center to determine if she is fit to stand trial. The hearing was set for two weeks. The judge wondered why the prosecution was not aware of the defendant's unusual condition.

Note on punishments that include jail time for probation violation (as in Aisha's case): I attended a hearing (not covered in the report) where I witnessed the grief of the defendant and his family when he was given double penalty (also 2 years) as implementation of the probation clause. This is a common phenomenon, due in part to the sweeping incrimination of minors over years. Under an all-encompassing occupation regime, odds are that many of the underage offenders will be arrested again and then they pay with compound interest. At this rate, the system must build more and more detention centers, train more judges, prosecutors, prison guards etc, to contend with the growing number of Palestinian detainees and prisoners.

Judge: Major Shlomo Katz

Prosecutor: Captain Hagai Rothstein

Defense: Atty. Ahmad Safiya

Defendant: Aadel Naaman Salim Jenidy, ID 989439525, Case No. 3131/09

Charge: Holding a position

Category: Summation

The defense moves to acquit the defendant. In an impressive dramatic presentation he tears down the prosecution's claims one by one: "The prosecution does not have even one piece of evidence." He attacks the prosecution's position. First, the charge is unclear: it was never made clear to the defendant what he was accused of. He was not confronted with conclusive facts (as to location, time etc), thus there was no attempt to get to the truth of the case. What's worse - and here the attorney surprises the court: he quotes the statement of the main incriminator in Arabic and asks the interpreter to translate into Hebrew the part describing the main charge. According to the incriminator - in Arabic - the defendant was a member of the "Liaison Committee", whereas in Hebrew the definition of the committee was different. The defendant was misled. Regarding this point, the judge later pronounced: "I am very, very upset about this snafu of the translation of the investigation." In summing up he said that "the prosecution should climb down from the tree." He appealed to the sides to reach a plea bargain, so he would not have to hand down a decision. The defense declined, so the decision will be given next week.