Russian Compound, Jerusalem - Release on Bail, Remand Extension

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Roni Hammermann, Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Russian Compound

I haven't been here for a while, so I noticed many changes in the entrance to the Detention Center where the remand halls are located.

There is a metal door with intercom at the bottom of the stairs, and a policewoman instructs us to wait for the arrival of the judge. As soon as the judge walks in, we, too, are admitted. At the top of the stairs there is another metal door where we have to wait, then we are required to leave our cell phones and ID cards at the desk, while a policewoman searches our bags. We go through the turnstile in the hallway, which has undergone extensive renovations, then we wait for the metal door to open and we are ushered into the courtrooms and to the holding cells.

In the courtroom itself nothing has changed, certainly not the procedure of bringing in the detaineesinfo-icon, shackled, handcuffed, blindfolded and facing the wall. They wait outside the hall for a hearing that lasts between two and three minutes, during which time the blindfold is removed, and sometimes the handcuffs too, depending on the goodwill of the prison warden. Today, at least one detainee sat - and stood, when instructed by the judge - with handcuffs on. The judge did not even notice.

Judge: Yehuda Lieblein. The judge was surprised to see us. He wanted to know who we were, and did not ask for more than a brief answer.

Interrogator: Avi Akiva. As usual, he was calling the shots, ordering the detainees who were brought in. He ignored us, but when a detainee who was barred from meeting his attorney was brought in, we were told, as usual, to leave the room with the attorney.

Attorneys: There were five attorneys in the morning session. They represented different detainees, who because of the holiday were particularly numerous.

Present in the court were also a typist, an interpreter and a man from the prison authority.

It was crowded in the court, and from where we sat we could not hear the names and details of the detainees. Other than that, it was not difficult to follow the proceedings, which are conducted mechanically and with very few words and legal terms (e.g.. it's all in the confidential file, cause for endangerment, conclusion of the interrogations etc).

Five of the six cases heard until noon ended with remand extension by agreement between the defense and the interrogator. Three of them will remain in custody 8 more days, and two 11 days. In all these cases the judge confirmed that the cases necessitate prolonged detention.

The sixth detainee received special attention from the judge, and for a good reason apparently: he was represented by a private attorney, who had met with the client, had studied the case and had prepared an argument. His name is Muhammad Saleh Abu Sabiha (?) a businessman from Ramallah who owns a shopping mall. He was arrested on 31.3.09, and the next day an order was issued prohibiting him from meeting his attorney. The order was revoked today, after Attorney Abu-Ahmed, who represents him, appealed to the Supreme Court to revoke the prohibition. The attorney posed many questions to the interrogator, but they were all dismissed with "it is in the confidential file." It was evident from the questioning that the interrogator, Avi Akiva, did not know the facts (which were well known to the defense and were made known to the court). The attorney concluded that there was no justification for a remand extension and moved to release the detainee on bail (the sums suggested were very high) since he is not a flight risk.

The judge sided with the defense stating that the material presented "does not suggest risk of endangerment and hence does not warrant detention..."

The remand was extended to the next day at 2 PM, after which time the detainee will be released, having deposited 50,000 shekels in cash and securing two guarantors, each depositing 25,000 shekels. The suspect's passport will be confiscated.

The interrogator, Avi Akiva responded to the judge's decision by saying, "If there is a new development in the investigation (conducted today or tomorrow morning), the suspect will be subpoenaed again tomorrow to Ofer Military Court for remand extension."