Salem - Administrative Detention, Interrogation of Witness

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Anat Matar (of the Committee for Prisoners), Yehudit Keshet, Hava Halevi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

We came to observe the trial of Gassan Shariff Haled - a law professor from A-Najah University.

[See earlier report: High Court of Justice: 22.5.08)

Defense: Atty. Muhammed Abed

Prosecution: Lieut. Zaher Falah

Judge: Yariv Navon

Summary: Dr. Haled was arrested a few months ago at his house in Jayyus. The indictment includes two charges: publishing an article in the students' paper of Kutla al Islamiya (a Hamas students organization)
and transferring Hamas funds to students. Justice Azriel Levy, of the Ofer Military Court, had determined
that the charges constitute no danger and released Dr Haled on 30,000 shekel bail until his trial.
Two weeks later, in the middle of the night, soldiers burst into his house and arrested him again imposing administrative detention. His attorney appealed to the High Court of Justice. The judges there allowed only
the military prosecution to remain in the courtroom, and based on the evidence brought before them
(unheard by us), upheld the decision to remand him in administrative detention. However, his case continued to be heard in a military court. This "schizophrenic" approach is incomprehensible. In the hearing we attended he was a "released" man, and yet he is subject to administrative detention.

The trial was conducted in Hebrew, even though the defendant, the prosecutor, the witness and the defense attorney are all native speakers of Arabic. This was pretty ludicrous. The defense's request to examine the witness in Arabic was denied.

The witness, Nasser A-din Abass Abed al-Halil Haraz, was ushered into the courtroom in prisoner's uniform with clanging shackles around his ankles. The judge explained that some questions might incriminate him, hence it was his right not to answer them (since he was awaiting his own trial).

Then the prosecutor (Napoleonic in stature and demeanor) told the witness the exact opposite: whatever is said in court today will NOT be used against him, since this is someone else's trial.

Then, over four tedious protocol pages, the military prosecutor and the witness tussled over the question: was or is the witness, Nasser A-din Haraz, a member of Hamas. After half an hour of bootless interrogation, the prosecutor asked, "In 2006, when your name appeared as a representative of Kutla AlIslamiya in the students council, what were your plans? What did you do after you became a candidate?" [What did he expect the witness to say? Perhaps the engineering student planned to graduate in nuclear physics and join the Iranian nuclear program? Or maybe he planned to take over the students council and convince them to support the Arab Peace Plan?]  

When the prosecutor failed to elicit a clear answer from the witness, he moved to declare him a hostile witness, saying, "The witness disappoints the prosecution by profoundly contradicting himself."

The judge acceded and declared Haraz a hostile witness. Then the hearing resumed. The prosecution tried to prove that the witness had held a position in Kutla AlIslamiya. But in the middle of this squabble between a uniformed military prosecution and a shackled man in sandals, the attorney got up and reminded the judge that up to that point, no question about the actual charge had been asked, namely, the allegation that Dr Haled transferred money from Hamas to the students.

It then transpired that the second charge - that of publishing an article in the Kutla AlIslamiya students' organ - had been omitted from the indictment, and only one charge, of monetary aid, remained.

In the cross-examination, Attorney Abed asked the witness about his acquaintance with the defendant, Dr Haled. What surfaced is the following: At the end of June 2007, as a result of some conflicts, a student of A-Najah was killed. The university administration expelled several students.

The students appealed and the university appointed a commission of inquiry. Dr Haled, a jurist, was on that commission, and in that capacity met with the witness, Nasser Haraz, several times to hear his complaint. These facts are accepted by all sides (and the actions are in compliance with the rules governing the Palestinians under the occupation, which leave very little leeway indeed). There was nothing here to substantiate a credible charge. But the defense pursued the inquiry, "It is alleged that in mid-2007 you came to the defendant's office at the university and received 10,000 dollars in aide for Kutla Isslamiya. What is your response?"

(Bravo! Finally a question relating to the indictment!)

The witness denies the allegation. He met with the defendant only in connection with the expulsion from the college and did not receive any aid, monitory or otherwise.

Whereupon the prosecutor got up and said, "I'll give you another chance."

(How generous of the military prosecutor! Another chance? For what?)

Well, here's what chance means, according to the military prosecutor:

"In a memorandum of your GSS interrogation we read: ‘The witness states that at one point he received a text message saying... that at the beginning of every semester, financial aid is received through a lecturer named Dr. Rassan Abu Nasser from Jayus... The witness states that he went to Abu Nasser's office and received the sum of 1000 dollars in cash... The transaction with Abu Nasser was clandestine, and even the members of Al-Shura councils were not aware of it'. What is your response? Why did you make this statement during your interrogation?"
The Witness: I never said this to the interrogator.

It fact, it turns out that the witness never signed that memorandum which was written by an interrogator named "Doron"; Doron himself and three of his colleagues, Police or GSS interrogators, will testify at the next hearing, on 16.10.08 at 9:30.