Ofer - Stone Throwing, Interrogation of Witness

Facebook Twitter Whatsapp Email
Roni Hammermann, Norah Orlow (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.


At 10:00, except for courtroom 2, no dockets are posted outside the halls.

I go to the office to demand the dockets. On my way back, Officer Baha rebukes me for daring to roam freely in a military compound. I point out that had they fulfilled their duty and posted the dockets, there would be no need to go to the office.

Courtroom 5

Judge: Major Menahem Lieberman

Zaid Halil Mahmud Abu Hamida - ID No. 850850207 -

Case No. 4758/07

Charge: Preparing and placing a bomb

Category: evidentiary (i.e., no plea bargain)

Defense: Abu Saffiya? (from Jericho)

The defendant's parents are present in the court.

A witness, Ibrahim, is summoned to testify. He is dressed civilian clothes.

Ibrahim claims not to recognize the defendant: it is not the same Zaid Halil from Jericho that he allegedly recruited. He denies having recruited Zaid Halil. The witness himself was incriminated by somebody else, who happened also to mention Zaid Halil.

The judge tells the defendant that he would like to set the next hearing of the case for as close a date as possible, but due to lack of communication between the prosecution and the defense in the last few months, there are hardly any plea bargains. Thus, he sets the next hearing for 19.5.09!!!

Upon mention of failed communication between prosecution and defense, one of the defense attorneys in court turns around and looks at us and we all smile, because the decision to cease all plea bargains is a deliberate move by the attorneys who are protesting the harsher sentences handed down in recent months.

Justice Lieberman scolds out loudly: "What's there to smile about? No reason to smile!" This emotional reaction of the judge is quite odd (we did not break any court rule - it is permissible to smile in court). Judge Lieberman is obviously under stress due to the large load of cases. He never misses an opportunity to inform the defendants that the wayward attorneys are responsible for the late dates of their hearing.

Courtroom 7

Judge: Lieut-Col. Dror Sveransky

Prosecutor: Deputy Eran Levi

Mustafa Rabhi Mustafa Aassi, ID No. 850303280 - Case No.4876/07

(See previous reports from 24.5.08 and 5.5.08)

Charge: Conspiracy to cause death

Category: Evidentiary

Defense: Attorney Gaby Lasky

The defendant's parents are present in the court.

Defense: Request not to hold the hearing at this moment due to an offense of an attorney by an officer of the detention facility. Attorney Lasky moves to postpone the hearing to the afternoon session. [all the attorneys present in the facility were on strike at the
moment, demanding an apology from the offending officer].

The defendant denies the allegations in the revised indictment.

Prosecutor: Defense Witness No. 3 has not shown up today. The prosecutor will inform the court by next hearing if he requires the witness's testimony.

He moves to summon Witnesses 4 and 5.

Judge's decision: Sets the next hearing to 28.7.08 at 14:00.

Raf'at Abdulla Rushdiya Harfush - ID No. 854007150  -  Case No. 1882/07

A 16 year old boy from the village of Harbata-a-Masbah.

Arrested on 22.2.08.

Charge: stone throwing

Category: Arraignment

Present in court: the defendant's oldest brother and an aunt.

Defense: Attorney Fadi Qawassme (not present)

(In this case, too, the attorney did not attend because of the above- mentioned incident).

Prosecutor: Declares the defense's no-show an insult to the court and to the defendant. He objects to further delays in a case that has already been re-scheduled twice because the defendant was not represented.

Judge's decision: Will suspend his decision for now, because it is not clear why
the defense did not report. The judge wishes to expedite the case, thus setting
the next hearing for 14.7.08 for further arraignment.

13:00 - lunch break

Session resumes an hour later.

Courtroom 5

Judge: Major Menahem Lieberman

Prosecutor: Lieut. Jenia Wolinsky

Jassem Ahamed Nimer Aassi - ID No.948353180 - Case No. 4878/07

(the session started before lunch break).

Charge:  Conspiracy to cause death (same as the case of Mustafa Aassi above)

Category: Evidentiary

Defense: Attorney Gaby Lasky

Prosecution Witness No. 2, Malek Mafraja, is called to the stand.

Prosecutor: Examining the witness. She asks if he was a member of Fatah and Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade. When he fails to give her a satisfactory answer, she refers him to his signed statement during his interrogation.

Witness: I signed a statement in Hebrew. I did not understand its content... A lot of pressure was put on me during the interrogation... I was asked to name names. I decided to supply them with lots of names, just to get it over with. For instance, I gave them Mustafa Aassi's name, because I knew that there are many people with that name. I have no connection to him.

Prosecutor: Move to declare the witness a hostile witness, since he denies what appears in his statement.

Defense: Objects to the declaration... The witness claims that the statement is incorrect. She [the attorney] adds that she objected to presenting

the statement.

Judge: Declares the witness a hostile witness.

(After the Break)

The judge seems displeased with the Prosecutor's interrogation so far. At this point he decides to interrogate the witness himself, and he does it with unrestrained aggression.

[An Arab proverb: "If your enemy is the judge, to whom will you complain?"]

Q: So you claim that you were not part of the Al-Aksa Brigade unit?

A: No, I was in Fatah.

Q: What did you do in Fatah?

A: Like any other member... I took part in the election, no more.

Q: You did not participate in marches or painted slogans?

A: No... At the interrogation I was asked if I am a member of Al-Akssa Brigade, and I said I was only in the Fatah.

Q: How well do you know the defendant?

A: I only know that his name is Jassem Aassi.


Q: Why did you sign the statement if you did not know what's in it?

A: I was under pressure. I wanted the interrogation to be over. I would have done whatever they asked me to do. I was interrogated continuously for almost 24 hours, with hardly any time to rest.

Q: Because of the pressure you incriminated the defendant as a member of Al-Aksa Brigade?


Q: The three investigators put pressure on you, as you claim...

A: Yes, they pressured me... Told me that if I didn't tell them more about the defendant, they'd add charges to my indictment and would put me in jail for at least 5 years.

Defense: The indictment has recently been amended by the prosecution.

I object to this amendment...

In the cross-examination, the defense asks about the circumstances of the defendant's interrogation.

The witness says he was interrogated by the GSS from 7 AM until 3 or 4 AM
the next day, with 1 hour respite from time to time.

Q: When you were in the interrogation-room, were you handcuffed?

A: Yes, both hands and feet. I was also tied to a chair.

Q: For how long?

A: At least 7 hours. I was taken to the restroom for 5 minutes once in a while...


Q: Did any of the interrogators touch you?

A: One of them tried to hurt me... I tried to evade him... His name was Ezra...  They also cursed me.

Q: How did they curse you during the interrogation?

A: They cursed my mother, my family, my sister. Curses I cannot repeat.

Q: Please repeat them, so the court will hear what goes on in the interrogations.

A: [repeats the obscenities in Arabic]

The judge rules that no translation is necessary in this case. Everyone understands those curses.

Q: Did they ask you to incriminate Mustafa or Jassem Aassi?


A: They told me to say something, anything. Under the pressure put on me in the interrogation, I was forced to say that they were members of the Fatah.

Q: How do you explain that in your signed statement you said that Jassem is a member of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades outfit, together with yourself?

A: I did not know what was written there. I repeat: I never said he was in the Al-Aksa Brigades.

Q: At what stage of the proceeding is your case?

A: My case was postponed to 23.2.09 for evidentiary hearing, because my attorney said there was a strike....

Q: What terrorist attack were you planning?

A: To damage the fence.

Q: What was your intention?

A: To torch the fence. But we did not do it.

Q: How?

A: By burning tires.


Q: When did you stop being a member of Fatah?

A: When I became a student at the university, two years ago.


Q: How long were you barred from seeing an attorney?

A: About 2 months. In the Russian Compound.

Q: Were you promised anything in return for incriminating others?

A: I was told that if I gave them names, I would be allowed to meet with an attorney. That an attorney could reduce my sentence and get me out

of the Russian Compound...

Q: Do you accept that some of your statements are true, but in regards to Jassem and Mustafa they are not true?

A: Yes.

Judge's Decision: In the next few days a decision will be made concerning the date and the nature of this case.