Ofer - Stone Throwing, Danger to Regional Security
Translation: Marganit W.
I have often written about the "laundry machine" that serves the military justice system for coining words and inventing newspeak, terms such as ‘security in the region,' disturbance of the peace,' ‘military equipment' ‘passages' etc. This time I'll focus on the way in which charges and indictment are being manufactured.
The village of Nabi Salah has recently joined Bil'in and Ni'lin in staging weekly demonstrations against land grab which the "laundry machine" calls the "seam area", but which to all honest observers looks like a separation wall, pure and simple.
Jamal Yassin, a young man from Nabi Salah stands trial for ‘endangering security in the region,' infringing on a closed military area, perhaps also for disturbance of the peace and membership and activity in an unlawful association, all stemming from his participation in a rally against the separation wall in which he also threw rocks. Today, through his attorney, Jamal acknowledged that he had participated in demonstrations three times. At the center of the hearing was testimony by Suhaib El Haj, a 17-year old boy in brown prison uniform, also a resident of Nabi Sala, who is accused of throwing rocks. The prosecutor and the defense cross-examine the witness about recriminations and counter-recrimination. The boy, and perhaps other detainees, stated that Jamal Yassin had thrown rocks. Now Suhaib denies that he has incriminated anyone from his village. He claims that during his investigation he talked only about himself, not about anyone else.
Prosecutor: What did you admit?
Suhaib: That I threw rocks.
Prosecutor: When and where?
Suhaib: At Nabi Salah. Don't know when.
P: Do you know a person named Rafat Rimawi? Tarek Rimawi?
S: Maybe just their faces.
P: Did you participate in activities against security in the region with them?
P: And with Jamal Kamel?
The prosecutor moves to declare Suhaib a hostile witness because his statement here contradicts what he said to the police. The judge accepts, and from now on Suhaib testifies as a hostile witness.
Prosecutor: Did you throw rocks with several other people?
Suhaib: Just by myself.
P: Why did you state to the police that you did it with others? Did you give all details to the investigator?
The vague reply by the witness demonstrates what we have often decried - the reality of the police investigation which is fraught with fear, loneliness, despair, noises from adjacent cells, thirst, cigarette stench, the need to go to the toilet (the detainee was shackled and blindfolded for straight eight hours), the confusion, the pain the handcuff causes in the wrists even after their removal and the fear of what might happen next.
This is what Suhaib said: "I was alone. The investigator showed me pictures and I told him I did not recognize the people. He asked me about things I knew nothing about."
But the smiley, comely, neatly coiffed prosecutor with her shiny captain's epaulets has a file in front of her, with the boy's statement where he mentions (i.e. incriminates) other boys who participated in the rally and in the rock throwing, and there is even a signature (we'll elaborate later). Why does the witness insist on denying a written statement signed by him? As usual, there is no way of verifying what the interrogator actually heard and what he put down.
The prosecutor has another question: Did they read your statement back to you?
Prosecutor: Then why did you sign it?
Suhaib: Because he told me to sign.
The cross-examination reveals a different reality.
The 17 year old was arrested at 2:30 AM, which is a common practice in the occupied territories. Try to imagine the reality of such an experience: darkness, nighttime, pajamas, the family woken up, rifle butts beating on the door, the light turns on in neighbors' houses, the soldiers shout in Arabic, the shock: what happened?
Further: the boy is sick; the judge decrees that there is no obligation to reveal medical details because of the ‘right to privacy' [impressive generosity this adherence to the right to medical privacy compared to other rights such as freedom of movement, the right to education, health, family life, private property and decent livelihood which are all deprived by the very same law.] Since December 2009, the boy has been petitioning for a permit to enter Jerusalem for medical treatment at Makassad Hospital, all in vain. He received his last treatment in February 2010. Somewhere in a nameless office someone found a weak spot: a request for hospital treatment, which can be used to apply pressure.
-What happened at your arrest?
-They said they came about the permits (at 2:30 AM??). Wanted to talk to my father. They took me out to a jeep. I had requested permission to enter Jerusalem since December, to be treated at Makassad Hospital. They would give me a permit for a day. I'd go and come back.
-How long did they keep you handcuffed and blindfolded?
-Since they arrested me until 10:00 (about 8 hours).
Here we return to the signature on the statement to the police.
-Are you a student?
-Why can't you read?
-I'm not good at it.
-Can you write?
-Where did the investigator get the names?
-I don't know.
-How long did the interrogation last?
-I don't know.
-At the end, did the investigator let you read your statement?
-I told him I'm not good at reading and writing.
-He showed you pictures?
-Who brought those pictures?
-They were on the board. I told him I don't know those people.
In the cross examination, the smiling, pretty prosecutor asked haughtily, triumphantly and distrustfully (‘they' always lie, don't they?) her trump question: Are you always in the habit of signing things that you cannot read? Note the scorn, the contempt and the use of ‘always'. As if the boy routinely signs documents. To her he is no more than a prosecution case, not a person, a boy, with mom and dad, friends, health issues and subsistence problems. He is merely a function of ‘danger to security in the region'. He is presented with documents, and he signs them even though he can't read. Such people are indeed unreliable. The trial will continue next week.