Ofer - Plea Bargain, Remand Extension

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Norah Orlow, Yehudit Sternberg (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Upon arrival we found the court almost deserted - there were very few family members and most of the courtrooms were closed.
We entered Courtroom 6 where remand extension hearings were held.

Judge: Captain Sharon Rivlin-Ahai
There were 19 names in the docket. We'll report on 4 cases of remand extension.

1. The detainee: a member of the Jaabri family (Ismail or Muhammad?)
Defense: Atty. Nasser Nubani
According to the charge, two suspects (only one present in court) were sitting in a car. When soldiers approached and ordered them to open the window, the driver (Muhammad) refused, and according to the soldiers' testimony, tried to run them over. The soldiers then shot at the vehicle, injuring the two suspects. The car, it later turned out, had been stolen, and a commando knife was found in it.

In the interrogation, the suspects rejected the allegations, denying that they tried to flee and run over the soldiers. The evidence consists mostly of the soldiers' testimony.

The defense argued that the car had been bought legally, though in turned out to be a stolen car.
The judge ordered the prosecution to share the evidence with the defense before the remand extension hearing and extended the detention by 6 days.

2. Detainee: Belal Bani Jaber,  ID 903907459 - Case No.5375/10
Defense: Atty. Nasser Nubani
The suspect, father of three small children of a family in great economic straits, is charged with entering Israel illegally. Normally, he works in Ramallah, but when offered 500 shekels for a job in Bet Hanina over a weekend, he accepted ("because of the great financial difficulty, I had to accept").
After a plea bargain approved by the court, he was sentenced to 35 days in jail, 2 months suspended sentence for two years, and a 800 shekels fine, or a month in jail.

3. The detainee is a man from Hebron.
Defense: Atty. Zahalka and Atty. Rashid.
The man is suspected of smuggling dangerous drugs from Jordan through Allenby Bridge. Aided by his wife, he dealt drugs on several occasions and transferred the profits to his brother in Jordan. He is accused of dealing and using drugs and of obstruction of justice.
The judge rejected the defense' arguments that the admission was obtained by coercion, that pressure was applied on the defendant's wife and sister in law, that the defendant did not know the content of the bags he was carrying, and that the dealing and use of the drug was carried out in the Palestinian Authority and hence the court has no jurisdiction.
The accused was ordered in custody until the conclusion of the proceedings.
Arraignment hearing was set for 24.1.11 before Lieut.-Col. Atzmon.

4. Defendant: Saed Mahmoud Abed Al-Hamid Bahar, ID 999681620 - Case No.5377/10
Defense: Atty. Munzer Abu Ahmad
The suspect is 22 years old, from the village of Bet-Ummar. He is charged with two memberships: one in a military Fatah-affiliated unit, involving marching in military parades while armed and masked; the second, an armed group that planned terrorist attacks. One count accuses him of participation in an attack where he and his accomplices planted an explosive charge near the door of a watchtower with the intent of injuring
The defense claims that the man's participation was negligible; he was merely a scout. Besides, his membership in the organizations ceased when he was arrested by the PA in February 2010, whereupon he spent 11 months in jail. His present detention in fact mounts to a second imprisonment for the same violation.
The judge ascribed to the defendant full membership in the unit and full participation in the planning and execution of a terrorist attack, which she described as sophisticated, even though no damage was done. The argument that he stopped being a member was rejected, since it was not his initiative. The argument of double indemnity, which might reduce his sentence later, was also rejected.
Decision: The suspect will remain in custody until the conclusion of the proceedings.
Arraignment hearing before Lieut.-Col. Atzmon was set for 24.1.11.

Courtroom 1
Justices: Lieut.-Col. Ronen Atzmon, Captain Hilit Baron, Captain Amir Dahan

1.Accused: Haled
Defense: Atty. Haled Al-Araj
This was a verdict hearing, following a plea bargain, after one clause of charge had been changed.
The charge is kidnapping under severe circumstances. In November 2002 the defendant asked his brother Nasser to follow a certain person who later, in January 2003, was kidnapped by Nasser and another person named Muhammad, brought under gun threat to the center of the village, and, having been forced to admit collaboration with Israel, was tied to a pole and shot.
The accused accepted the revised charges and acknowledged the admission of details he had had given twice before.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
His mother sat in the audience, crying bitterly. The son left the court without looking at her.

2. While in the courtyard, we were approached by a well dressed gentleman from Jerusalem, who told us in fluent Hebrew that his uncle, a resident of Ramallah, had been in custody since 2006, and his sentencing was scheduled for today.

This is Mahmud Awad Tawfiq Damara, ID 410076806 - Case No.5997/06, commander of [Arafat’s] Force 17 and later Abu-Maazen's bodyguard and security officer.
We don't have the full details of the charges and the trial, but having checked with Atty. Arye Yitzhaki (from Atty. Avigdor Feldman's law firm which represented Damara) we found that the case involves orders by his superiors to open fire on the IDF during the invasion of the Mukataa during operation "Defense Shield." In this respect, he was no different than any commander of armed forces during military confrontations.
Mr. Damara is 52, of small built, with a scowling, blank face. Abu Maazen said about him that he might contribute to the peace efforts, if he were released. Saeb Arekat presented the court with a letter to this effect.
The court postponed the argumentation but handed down a verdict in Damara's case based on rules that apply in cases where there is a divergence of opinion among the judges.

Justice Dahan set the punishment at 11 years, Justice Atzmon at 15 and Justice Brown at 18.
Sentence: 15 years jail and 3 years suspended sentence for 5 years.
The defense plans to appeal the sentence. So apparently does the prosecution who deems the sentence too light.