Ofer - Release on Bail, Remand Extension

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Hagit Shlonsky and Ofra Ben-Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Diana Rubanenko

Judge: Lt.-Colonel Ron Deloomy

Prosecutors: Capt. Yaakov Hatina and Capt. Adi Noy

Defence: Attorney Limor Goldstein

68 cases were to be heard that day in Courtroom 7. It was reflected in the atmosphere of hustle and bustle among the numerous attorneys who constantly walked in and out to ascertain the status of their case. As a result, it was sometimes hard to keep track of what was being said.

We report here on 3 cases, two of which concern brothers - Hassan and Mahmoud Barija. The third case, which was slipped into the middle, was short.

Defence Attorney: Limor Goldstein

Defendants: Hassan Barija 3286/09,  Muhammed Barija 2806/09

Background: The brothers live in Umm Salmona, a small village south of Bethlehem. Because of massive expropriation of land to enable the construction of the fence and the nearby settlement - Efrat - demonstrations take place there weekly.

To mark May 1st , a larger demonstration than usual was held with around 200 participants, 50 of whom were international volunteers and a few Israelis. A dispute broke out and seven demonstrators were arrested.

A Briton and an Israeli were released on the same day, and another three Palestinians were released two weeks later, and only Hassan and Mahmoud who are members of the popular committee that operates against the fence, were detained until the end of proceedings. At the end of a long day of deliberations, they remained in custody.

Hassan Barija lives 300 metres from the site where the fence is being built. He was arrested in a demonstration two years ago, and an indictment was served on him: since then his trial has been proceeding at snail's pace - to an extent that the judge remarked in his ruling that he was "concerned by the lack of progress" in the trial. Mr. Hassan Barija was released on bail, conditional on his remaining at a distance of 500 metres from the site of the fence and the demonstrations. Since he was arrested in the recent demonstration (1 May 2009), the prosecution is seeking to annul his release on bail in the previous case, which is merely declaratory, since in any case he is in custody for the second case. In addition, the prosecution is seeking forfeiture of the deposited fees and the guarantee (NIS 10,00 from the defendant, and NIS 40,000 from his guarantors). In these circumstances, the defence could not ask for an alternative option to detention, because there had been a breach of conditions, but she managed to defer the forfeiture of guarantees until legal proceedings in the new case.

Remand in custody was extended by 15 days.

When a person sees his land taken away so that he and his family will be penned in between walls, and at the same time, making life more comfortable for his free masters over the walls, the very least he wants to do is to shout, maybe even scream. But here he is deprived of that right too.  And from a situation of "open imprisonment" in his village, he makes the transition to a closed arrest in Ofer Jail. And the prosecutor, for whom the law must prevail, insists that he pays for it too.

It's hard not to recall Sodom and Gomorrah.

The hearing of Mahmoud Barija's case started at 10:00 and ended at 18:00.  On 7.5.09 an indictment was served that, surprisingly, was based on the two cases:

the "dormant" case concerning the demonstration two years ago, was added to the present one, but the defence was sure that the former had been closed, because  M. Barija was released after three days, after the judges watched a video filmed at the demonstration, that proved his innocence. When the indictment was served, the defence did not receive any evidentiary material from the prosecution and requested a "re-examination"  so it could watch the filmed evidence in both cases (cassettes on which the investigation is recorded as well as filmed material from the two demonstrations).  After the prosecutor said to the defence attorney that she could watch the material immediately, the judge halted the proceedings, and decided to allow the defence attorney to watch the material and to then resume the proceedings. Initially the prosecutor asked the defence attorney to wait until the material could be organised, but ultimately he was told that the material could not be viewed that day, only the next day. The defence attorney asked the judge to resume the halted discussion. The judge warned that in this case, she would lose the option of seeking a "re-examination" of the arrest.

The defence decided to go along with this and asked for "a hearing dealing with the essential matter". The judge who was dealing with other cases (68) sent the case back to the end of the queue, and all this to state "at the end of the day" (double meaning)' that "the petition to re-examine is dismissed"  because the whole procedure was incorrect and it actually concerned an appeal, and that, therefore, the defence should file an appeal.

The next day a representative of the defence was dispatched to Ofer to watch the filmed material, and the cassettes documenting the investigation were empty; neither did the stills from the demonstration appear on the screen.

What an effort the defence invested - and for no point! How little an effort the prosecutor invested to win...

Mr. M. Barija says that "he participated in a non-violent demonstration...a soldier spat at him and cursed him that he was a crappy Arab, and then the same soldier hit him with a plastic shield...the defendant provided details how he was hit and humiliated after being arrested...but no investigation was launched...".

Defence Attorney:  Attorney Maya Giladi

Defendant: Muhammad Abadin

The defendant was involved in an accident with a police vehicle at Hizma Junction. There was a huge traffic jam. The defendant lost patience and overtook the line, and in the process, struck a Palestinian vehicle and then the police vehicle. A police officer was slightly wounded. He was arrested, questioned by the General Security Services while being barred from meeting with an attorney. During the interrogation, the defence attorney said, he incriminated himself as having acted from "security" motives [i.e. to violate the state security] And so he was accused of attempting to murder  a police officer, against a security background. The defendant belongs to the Abadin family, affluent merchants in Ramallah.  The goal of the defence attorney is to turn this security-oriented case into a criminal case. At this stage she is working to cancel the serving of an indictment, in the hope that she can change it for the benefit of her client.