Salem - Stone Throwing, Holding and trading of combat materiel

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Revital Sela (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

Reminder Hearing

Get Up, Sit Down

On Tuesday August 17, I had plenty of time to look at the wall over the judge's empty seat at the military courtroom Nr. 1 in Salem. It was 10:35 when His Honor arrived and we got up, then he sat down (and so did we), under the three emblems decorating the wall: the scales of justice entwined with an olive branch (no inscription), the Menorah flanked by olive branches over the word "Israel," and the olive branch surrounding a sword that pierces a Star of David over the inscription "Israel's Defense Forces" - a reminder that our hand is forever stretched out for peace.

We rose again when Captain Haim Wismonsky, the military judge, decided not to wait in the courtroom for the prosecution's arrival. Then we sat down and waited for the prosecutor, who arrived at around 11:00. When the judge came back, we got up and sat down when he did.

All this time, between getting up and down, seven pot-bellied prison guards in gray prison guards uniforms were busy ushering in detaineesinfo-icon, taking off their handcuffs, shackling them again and leading them out.

There were 8 detainees waiting for their trials, all looking thin, smiling, clad in brown prison uniforms. Two are accused of keeping and trading in combat materiel, two of leaving the area without permits, two of membership and activity in an unlawful association, one of hurling objects and one of terrorist acts.

It was eleven AM when the session started at Salem military court.

Everything is Relative

Imad Az Aldin Muhamad Maraba, ID. 948979455, Case No. 3542/09, born in 1986, about to graduate with a degree in Arabic from Al-Najah University and planning to get married. But on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, at 2 AM, the Israel Defense Forces showed up at his home in Azun Athma, in Qalqilyia district, and today, August 17, he is to be sentenced for the charge of membership and activity in an unlawful association.

He first appeared in Court 1 at Salem on Thursday 6.8.09 for remand extension. The hearing lasted a minute and a half. The judge accepted the plea bargain between the two sides, and the remand was extended for 8 days. In fact, the remand was shortened and eventually another hearing took place at Salem on 12.8.09.

On the day of the sentencing, 5 days after the second remand extension, one of his eight sisters (he also has 4 brothers) wanted to join their parents and attend the trial, but she was refused entry. Detainees are allowed only 2 visitors, no exceptions .

Since he was taken from his bed on July 22, until his first appearance in court on August 6, he has been in Jalame [detention center].

His father instructed Attorney Zahalka to offer to pay a heavier fine to shorten his son's detention. He hoped for 3 months. Considering that membership in Hamas usually results in 18 months in jail, the attorney thought the 6 months he managed to obtain in the bargaining was a great achievement.

The Bound and the Unbound

The prosecution requested 6 months, 2000 shekel fine or alternatively 2 months jail time, plus probation for a period to be determined by the court.

The defense agreed, the judge recognized that Imad had no prior convictions and the activity in question involved merely students' activity and propaganda; Imad was a member of Hamas for only a couple of months and there was no indication of any hostile activity; he admitted his guilt at the first opportunity, thus saving the court the need to summon witnesses, but according to the (Emergency) Defense Laws, membership and activity in an unlawful association carries a punishment, and he admitted his guilt.

The judge added that he was not bound by the agreement between the prosecutor and the defense, and he might come down harder on the defendant. Attorney Zahalka suggested gently that he use his ‘unbound' privilege to hand down a lighter sentence, but the suggestion was rejected on ‘statistical grounds'. "Has anything like this ever happened?" "Really?" "There was a precedent at Salem? Interesting!"

I asked, was it worthwhile to confess and to enter a plea bargain?  Zahalka reminded me that given the legal system that governs the lives of the occupied Palestinians, a plea bargain is the only means guaranteeing a shorter period of the defendant's freedom being denied. This coming Christmas Eve, Imad Maraba will be released from the clutches of the "unbound" judge, from the long arm of the occupation law and from the local theory of relativity, and will resume his life.

We got off lightly this time.