Ofer

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Observers: 
Hagit Shlonsky, Hava Halevi
Apr-30-2008
|
Afternoon

Translation: Marganit W.


Courtroom 4

Judge: Lieut.- Col. Shmuel Keidar
Defense: Atty. Haled Al-Araj

The defendant, Falastine Sabah is in the dock. She is a young woman in
prison garb and headgear, smiling and composed. She was arrested on
20.8.06, which means that she's already been incarcerated for almost 20
months. The charge is the usual one of membership and activity in

Jama'a Islamiya (the student body of Islamic Jihad).

We must stress again: most Palestinians we see as suspects and defendants are detained and eventually convicted on what the court assumes, rightly perhaps, they think,

i.e., their political views.

Atty. Haled Al-Araj interrogates the defendant, and the interpreter
translates from Hebrew to Arabic and vice versa.
He reads the indictment and asks:

Q: Are you a member of Islamic Jihad?
A: Not true. I am just a student. I have never been a member of any
organization.
Q: What is your connection to a woman named Hiba?
A: No special connection. We worked as clerks in the same office.
Q: You told the police that the two of you participated in parties for
released (female) prisoners. Is this true?
A: Yes, it is customary and legal to throw parties for released prisoners.
I was invited, so I went.


The story is as follows: A woman named Falastine, 23 years old,  had
already spent 5 months in jail two years ago. Since then she has been a
student in the Open University, living in Jilasun refugee camp and working
in an office called Mishkat El-Assir which supports prisoners' families.
When applying for the job, she filled up a CV and gave her bank account
number (for deposit of salaries). One day she was asked to withdraw  $400
deposited in her account through Western Union. She gave the money
to Hiba, her superior, for a $100 commission. Later, she repeated the
operation and withdrew $300, which she handed, in the office, to a certain
Ahmed Darara. For this transaction, too, she received a commission, and
this is how the drama began.
The bank-teller, who had seen her before, told her the money came from
Lebanon and was being traced and monitored, so "you better not have it
deposited in your account". Moreover, when she gave the money to Ahmed, he
got angry and threatened to destroy the office, claiming that the sum was
not sufficient for the purpose it was marked for. Falastine realized who
and what she was dealing with and told her supervisor she would no longer
withdraw money from her account.

In cross-examination by the prosecutor, a similar story unfolded: she got
the job through an acquaintance she met at a party for released prisoners,
was asked to withdraw money from her account, but when the teller told her
she might get into trouble, Falastine realized it was earmarked for
activities of "the organizations" and consequently refused to take part in
future transactions or have any dealing with Ahmed Darara, who threw a fit
in the office. The prosecution is trying to prove that Falastine is lying
because there are inconsistencies between her testimony to the police and
her testimony in court. These inconsistencies are on two counts:
Involvement with prisoners' organizations and services to Islamic Jihad:
-Did you participate in marches and rallies of Islamic Jihad? (Yes, Jihad
and other organizations).
-Did you request and obtain pictures of prisoners and shahids (martyrs)?
(Yes, both of Jihad and other organizations. The office deals with
prisoners' families).
- So why is Wadha saying... and why didn't you say earlier... and why didn't you
mention... and why did you get a commission? Where did you meet her?

Falastine's trial is concomitant with trials of others mentioned above:
Hiba, head of Mashkat El-Assir, and another woman, Wadha, all detained and
awaiting trial. Ahmad Darara testified in his investigation that Falastine
recruited him to the Islamic Jihad, and the other two women, too,
incriminate her. The other defendants in this case are presumably also
accused of lying and are confronted with others who incriminate them in
this "justice mill" that grinds the Palestinians to pulp. No date has been
set for the next hearing.

During the trial the witness uttered a quick sentence in Arabic to her
attorney, which was not translated by the interpreter. Aha! The prosecutor
demanded to know what it was. Twice she was told there was no point to it,
but she insisted, and standing up, full of indignation and righteousness
declared: the witness conferred with her attorney and I demand to know
what she said! Again, she was told she had better not insist, but she was
adamant. The interpreter had no choice, so he translated: the witness told
her lawyer that the judge had nodded off! It was true, he had.