High Court of Justice - Plea Bargain, Danger to Regional Security

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Ofra Ben-Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Report from the High Court of Justice:

HCJ rejects another appeal by Dr. Ghassan Haled

Justices: A.A. Levi, A. Gronis, H. Meltzer

Representing the appellant: Attorney Muhammad Abed

Representing the respondent: Attorney Illill Amir

Interpreter: none

Case No. 3908/09

Justice Meltzer: He is a law professor, doesn't he know what it means to concede the facts!? He admitted he was a member of Hamas...

This case encapsulates the banality of the oppression and the humiliation that typify all the legal procedures that thousands of Palestinians have to undergo every year in the Israeli courts, procedures whose aim is to bestow a semblance of law, order and justice on criminal acts perpetrated on a people under occupation.

The esteemed Justice makes use of an appellant's admission, obtained under duress as part of a plea bargain [1], which resulted in his release, in order to prolong the appellant's administrative detention without trial [2]. Needless to say, the appellant has already paid his dues, both in jail time, probation and monetary fine. This is adding insult to injury.

On 20.5.09 Dr Ghassan Haled appealed to the HCJ protesting his third administrative detention, all in all a year and a half. It was a routine procedure with an anticipated ending.

The defense presented its case first. Attorney Abed tried to focus on the fact that the military judge had released his client until the conclusion of the proceedings on 19.3.08, as proof that his client was not dangerous, but one of the Justices interrupted him to remind him of Dr Haled's admission as part of the plea bargain. Attorney Abed responded that admission was the only course left to his client. It is important to note that the appellant agreed to admit in court that he had transferred funds to the Islamic Student Organization in order to save a student a long jail sentence. That student had incriminated him and was the main witness in Dr Haled's trial. When the student recanted his allegation, he was pronounced a hostile witness. Had it not been for the plea bargain, the student would have been sentenced to 6 years in prison. Dr Haled wanted to prevent this from happening. In addition, the plea bargain would have led to Dr Haled's release, had it not been for the administrative detention.

In his summation, Attorney Abed pointed to the appellant's Israeli friends present in the court. These people have been following the case from the initial arrest, and their presence and support disprove the GSS's claim that Dr Haled is a security risk.

The representative of the state spoke next. The torrent of her words prompted one judge to stop her because the typist could not keep up with her. He asked her jokingly if the huge sunglasses resting on her head were the reason, and she said they only helped keep her hair from falling onto her eyes. But the fashionable sunglasses were of no help to Attorney Illill when she looked in vain among her documents for the date when the present administrative detention would end. A friend of the family, Jamila, could not contain herself and remarked, "What are two months in the life of an Arab? What does the prosecutor care? They didn't even bother to get him an interpreter!"

Indeed, there was no interpreter. Attorney Abed had to do the translation. He positioned himself next to Dr. Haled, who was surrounded by guards. The judge asked them to let the attorney-interpreter sit next to his client's ear. "Be a little creative, friends!" said the judge. Thus the defense attorney translated the state's arguments for Dr. Haled, in particular the repeated allegation that he posed a security danger.

At the defense's request, Dr. Haled was allowed to address the court. He explained that he has a family, he teaches law, he is a man of peace and his family has many Israeli friends.

At this point the defense and the audience were asked to leave, so the case could continue behind closed doors. It then became apparent that no less than eight GSS men and women had been present in the court, sitting in the back. They now conferred with the Justices and with the prosecution, presenting the classified material that ostensibly proved that Dr. Ghassan Haled poses "danger to the region."

The verdict (3) rejecting the appeal was given the same day. It was all perfectly predictable. In light of the verdict, the license given to Dr. Haled to address the bench can only be seen as a cynical gesture that mocks the appellant. The Justices state that the verdict was based on "his admission" during the trial, i.e., admission in a legal procedure that ended in a plea bargain and in which he was already penalized and that will continue to haunt him for as long as the GSS sees fit. In addition, the Justices found "substantiation in the classified intelligence material presented to us, which convinced us that there is ground for suspecting the appellant of posing danger to security in the region. Therefore, the appeal is denied..."

Once more, the question arises: is there a point in Palestinians appealing to the High Court of Justice which abuses them twice: not only do they lose in the majority of cases, but they end up more guilty and humiliated than when they went in.

The answer is apparent: in June 1967, Head of Military Prosecution

Meir Shamgar (later Supreme Court Chief Justice) ostensibly opened the door for Palestinians to enter the halls of Israeli justice. But this door has been systematically slammed in their faces for the last 42 years, except that everything is documented so that years from now this legal system will find  itself on the wrong side of the law.

(1) The trial and the plea-bargain: http://www.machsomwatch.org/en/salem_sun_30_11_08_morning

    "Guilty" pp. 34-39: http://www.machsomwatch.org/files/Guilty.pdf 

(2) The administrative detention - started on 3.4.08 for 6 months; extended for the second time for 6 more months. On 31.3.09 extended for the third time for 4 months, until 30.7.09

Additional material:

"Guilty" (see above), Machsomwatch report:


(3) Verdict: http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files/09/080/039/o03/09039080.o03.htm