Salem - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Leah Reichman, Netta Golan (reporting)

Translation: L.W.

10:00 - 14:15

At the entrance to the court, a large coloured inscription: "execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gatesinfo-icon," Zechariah 8:16.

Courtroom 2

Judge: Lt. Col. Vered Orenstein

We came to observe the trial of two brothers accused of attacking soldiers at Checkpoint 609, near Deir el Azzun (see item 13 in report of 1.6.09).

We did watch other hearings.

1. As a result of debate about our right to receive the list of hearings, and their absence from the courtroom door, we were late in entering the first hearing and did not hear the accused's details.

There is a plea bargain. The accused admitted to a variety of offences in an amended indictment: trading in combat materiel, attempted conspiracy to shoot at a man, throwing stones, forging a document and exit from a closed military area.

The trade in combat materiel was the acquisition of improvised equipment. The attempt at conspiracy happened a year before his arrest. The accused spoke with his brother, who refused the proposal to carry out a shooting attack. The throwing of stones was four months before his arrest, at a military patrol that passed through the centre of the village: no one was harmed. The forgery was of an Israeli ID card with the help of which the accused entered Israeli territory. The judge accepted the plea bargain: 18 months imprisonment from the date of his arrest, and a fine of 3,000 shekels or three months imprisonment in place of the fine, and 8 months probation.

At the request of the defence counsel, the judge fulfilled a previous promise to let the accused's father and young brother talk with him.

2.2070/09 - Nur Aldin Abed Elkarim Naif Atatra, ID 850117268,

accused of manufacturing and throwing an incendiary device.

Hearing: reminder

Defence: Iyad Mahamid

There is a plea bargain. The judge said that the accused and his comrade bought petrol in a gas station to prepare Molotov cocktails: they threw the bottles and stones at vehicles on the main road. No damage was caused by the action and the bottles did not ignite. The action was not within the frame of membership in an organisation.

The accused was on a 7 months probation.

He is now sentenced to 6 months, a fine of 1,000 shekels or a month in jail, and 6 months probation for 5 years. The previous probation will be activated so that 3 months accumulate and 4 overlap, and in practice the sentence is 9 months actual imprisonment.

3.  1459/09 - Muhamad Abed Alhafid Mahmoud Haled, ID 850348921, accused of throwing objects.

Hearing: internal reminder.

Defence: Riad Aarda

The accused is not present. He already confessed on 16.6.09, in front of Judge Major Levi. There is no need for a summons.

Continuance on 5.7.09.

4.  1753/09 - Imad Sail Sanaah - ID 414958017, accused of membership and activity in an unlawful association.

Hearing: Arraignment

Defence: Mahmoud Hassan

Alibi argument cancelled, and there is discussion of plea bargain.

Hearing to be continued on 20.7.09.

5.  1986/09 - Yussuf Abed Elrauf Muhammad Barhush, ID907349872, accused of shooting at a person

Hearing: Arraignment

Defence: Mustafa Azamta

Another defence counsel, Fares Abu Hassan, was also present. The two advocates are going abroad for a month, so that the next hearing was set for 10.8.09.

6.  1757/09 - Rami Malek Radi Ajbar, ID 853052447,  accused of membership and activity in an unlawful association

Evidentiary hearing

Defence: Fares Abu Hassan

The accused is very young. There is an agreed plea bargain. The defendant was active in an unlawful association while still at school, took part in prayers of a students movement belonging to Hamas. From December 2008 he was active in another organisation belonging to Hamas, and recruited others. The student activity continued until the date of arrest, and was propaganda oriented, not military. Some of his colleagues in the activity have already been sentenced to shorter terms of imprisonment than agreed upon in the plea bargain because their activity ceased before their arrest. Counsel requests to give the defendant an opportunity to return to his university studies.

The judge accepts the plea bargain: 11 months imprisonment, 2,000 shekels fine and six months probation.

A military policeman asks whether to bring in the brothers. Not yet.

7.  We did not get the details of the accused, whose name did not appear on the list.

He was released on bail, hence came in his own clothes and did not sit in the dock, but stood at the witness podium. The judge asks whether he has a counsel. He did have, Advc. Sharab, who resigned.

The proceedings have been going on since 2006. The offence is traffic - driving a vehicle without a license, and others. They search for the bail receipt. It turns out that it is still with the counsel who resigned. The hearing is postponed to 20.7.09, and the court officer is to make sure that Advc. Sharab reports, or brings the  NIS 1,5000 slip for the bail.

8.  1929/09 - no details on the list.

The accused was not present. Defence wanted to discuss the case with the prosecution. Evidentiary hearing is set for 20.7.09, and witnesses 4 and 5 for the prosecution will be summoned.

Again they ask whether to bring in the brothers.

9.  3196/08 - Muhammad Hassan Abed Elrahman Elchajajla, ID 994476349, accused of leaving the area without a permit.

Hearing: Arraignment

Defence: Nael Zahalka

The accused and his counsel are not present. The judge and prosecutor talk between themselves. We do not understand what is happening.

12:00 the judge declares a break until 13:00.

13:00 the brothers are brought into the courtroom. They do not sit together, the elder brother sits in the dock, and the younger one on a side bench. The parents and another brother are present in court.

Return to 9. It turns out that no contact could be established with the accused who was released on 2,000 shekels bail.

The judge says it is a pity to revoke bail. Next hearing set for 27.7.09.

10.  5041/08 - Sabhi Muhammad Salman Abu Adwan, ID 909496259, accused of using fake documentation

Hearing: Arraignment

Defence: name not listed

The accused is not present. He was also not present in previous hearings. He was not summoned to this hearing because he was not accessible. He was released on 800 shekels bail. The judge gives him one more opportunity to appear in order not to revoke bail.

sets the next hearing for 27.7.09. The court officer is to inform the defendant.

11, 12.  Brothers, Massaeb and Maed Barkat

There is an unresolved plea bargain. Length of imprisonment is decided, but not the size of fine. Advc. Jamal Mahamid, Maed's counsel, says that he feels bad that the bargain is falling over the fine, as if the state treasury will be harmed if it isn't paid.

13.  4748/08 - Mahmoud Adnan Mustafa Harasha, ID 852331024, accused of using fake documentation

Hearing: Arraignment

Defence: name not listed

No contact could be established with the defendant. Next hearing set for 27.7.09.

11, 12.  The 2 brothers are brought in again. The judge suggests that the size of fine be left to her judgment. Counsel Agbaria hesitates. Counsel Mahamid talks with the father of the accused. The prosecutor goes to consult with his collegues.

13:35 a break is declared, apparently to resolve the plea bargain.

13:45 hearing resumes. The prosecutor in the case of the brothers is Lt. Louis Alman.

11.  1749/09 --  Massaeb Fuaz Ibrahim Barkat, ID 854129673, accused of attacking a soldier and interfering with him.

Evidentiary hearing

Defence: Wissam Agbaria

There is an agreed plea bargain. The accused admits in the amended indictment the offence of attack which took place when he entered the Seam Zone with his brother, refused to pass a check, and violence ensued between him and a soldier. The considerations for plea bargain include evidential difficulty deriving from different versions of the soldiers and of the defendants, and the fact that there is no medical certificate relating the condition of the soldiers.

The defendant was a minor at the time of the offence, and this is his first offence. Ultimately, the defendant confessed and saved the court time.

Sentence: 5 months imprisonment dating from arrest on 27.2.09, 1,000 shekels fine or 2 weeks imprisonment, and 5 months probation for the duration of five years.

12.  1750/09 - Maed Fuaz Ibrahim Barkat, ID 858570740, accused of attacking a soldier and interfering with him.

Evidentiary hearing

Defence: Jamal Mahamid

There is a plea bargain, as with Massaeb. Maed had already crossed to the Seam Line, but when the violence began with his younger brother, he joined him. His offence is less grave than his brother's, but as he is not a minor, their punishment is identical.

The relatively relaxed atmosphere of the courtroom is noteworthy. While the judge and the parties spoke between themselves, the defendants and their families could steal a few words without being shouted at or threatened with removal from the courtroom.

After the trial, Advc. Jamal Mahamid talked with us, and explained that plea bargains are necessary, so that the accused will not sit in detention for longer periods than the prison sentence, even if it does not reflect fair trial, as there was a theoretical possibility of being declared innocent due to the lack of credibility of the witnesses. According to him, a trial with evidence and proofs would have lasted a year. The 2 defendants will thus be released in less than a month. He said that the prosecution demanded a fine of 2,000 shekels each, but in the additional negotiation over the plea bargain, they succeeded in reducing the fine to 1,000 shekels each.