Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Judith Sternberg, Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Courtroom 2.
Judge: Sharon Rivlin-Ahai

First we report the case of a boy, Muhammad Tarek Abd Alllatif Omar, age 13, of

Bet Ur-Altahta, who's been in detention for three and a half months! The hearing was postponed last week, and we wanted to follow up (see report from 29.10.10). 

His parents had been waiting outside since morning, and only in the evening, towards the end of the sessions, were they allowed into Courtroom 1.

Atty. Haled Araj requested and obtained a one-month postponement. The hearing will take place on 3.1.11.
The attorney explained to the parents that Justice Rivlin-Ahai has a big workload and had not had time to look at the file. The parents reported that their son looked poorly, was wearing only a light shirt and complained of being cold, hungry and feeling sick. This I heard from A. who had spoken to the parents. I passed this information on to Bana, head of the legal department of the Committee Against Torture, as a follow up to what I told her a week ago. I later heard from the Committee that the boy had been transferred to Rimonim Detention Center where juveniles are kept apart from adult detaineesinfo-icon.

Small consolation.

The "juvenile court" is just as busy this Monday as it has been for many weeks now: lists of 25 boys, some newly arrested, others who have been detained for several months, with several appearances before this judge, and several extensions. The hearings in their cases are being postponed time and again. Only few defendants come from home having been released on bail until their trial. There are several reasons for extensions: sometimes the defense requests an extension to study the case; sometimes the sides have not had time to meet and work out an agreement, or have not been able to agree on the terms; sometimes the defendant refuses to accept the charges, and the sides prepare for an evidentiary hearing which requires summoning witnesses; sometimes there's a trial but the witnesses
don't show up.

I wrote down 13 cases (out of the 25 presented in court today) : 7 received sentences, all as a result of plea bargains, all included time in jail, suspended sentence and various fines.

The stiffest sentence was handed down to a defendant accused of "membership and activity" in the Islamic Jihad. In this case a suspended sentence from 2005 was activated. He got 26 months in jail, 12 months suspended sentence for 5 years, and no fine.

The lightest sentence was given to a 17 year old from Jaba, accused of throwing rocks in August 2009: three and half months in jail, 10 months suspended sentence for 4 years for the present offence or for any damage to a human being (this is apparently the official language of suspended sentences) and a 2000 shekel fine.

Like judges in adult cases, the juvenile court judge, too, urges the prosecutor and the defense to reach an agreement, in other words, to forsake the quest for truth  and talk the defendants - who have denied the charges - to admit guilt and accept the charges. This was the case of the boy who admitted to throwing one rock, while the prosecution stated that "he threw rocks during a demonstration". This happens in many cases.

Muhammad Mahmoud Halabiya – case 1512/10, age 16, from Abu-Dis.

He was arrested on 6.2.10 and has been in custody for 10 months.

His attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, responds to the judge's complaint that she is not pleased with the way evidence is presented in this case: "Despite my efforts, we have not reached an agreement with the prosecution."

A Border Police officer testifies for the prosecution, describing in detail the incident in which, according to the indictment, two boys were caught with Molotov cocktails in their hands. One boy has already been tried and is serving 13 months in jail. When Muhammad Halabiya was caught, he had a broken ankle. The witness claims this happened when the boy jumped from a roof while trying to escape. The testimony lasted a long time. The cross-examination continued after the break.

We'll follow up.