Ofer - Release on Bail, Interrogation of Witness

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Norah Orlow, Yehudit Steinberg (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

We came to observe the hearings of the Bil'in detaineesinfo-icon.

The guard at the gate asked for our entrance permit, but then insisted to demand further authorization from higher echelons. To further harass us, Norah was required to deposit a piece of newspaper she had in her bag because "newspapers are not allowed in court" [which, of course, is nonsense].

Case No 4022/05 - Abdulla Mahmud Muhammad Abu-Rahma, resident of Bil'in, out on bail and absent from the hearing with permission of the court. 

He is charged with three counts: disturbing a soldier, attacking a soldier and violation of the law (he was out when curfew was imposed on the village Bil'in).

Hearing category: Conclusion of evidence

Judge: Major Menahem Lieberman

Military Prosecutor: Captain Andrei Varshechgin

Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky and Atty. Nery Ramati

Abdulla Abu-Rahma is charged with three separate violations that took place in Bil'in in 2005 during the demonstrations against the separation wall and against the occupation.

First to testify for the defense was Shai Efrati (No. 3) who participated in the demonstration and observed Abdulla's behavior, as well as the army's. 

He testified  that on 15.7.05 - the date of the alleged attack on the soldier - the demonstrators, including the defendant, carried out a presentation, which involved carrying a  heavy object on their shoulders. The defendant was "tied" inside the container all the time, even when he fell down, thus, he was not the attacker, but was the one to be attacked.

The second count - on 17.6.09 - also involved a presentation in which the demonstrators carried tombstones made of Styrofoam. During the demonstration a 'noise machine' was used by the army. The soldiers chased the demonstrators through the village and shot at them. Abdulla's brother, Rateb, was hit by a sponge-bullet, while Abdulla himself fainted. The witness was arrested together with the two brothers, but he was released the next day without charges. 

As for the third incident, on 9.9.05, where the charge is "breaking the curfew", the witness testified that the streets were full of people and even supporters from outside the village were not required to leave.

During the cross-examination, the witness repeated that those demonstrations were of non-violent nature and that no rocks were thrown by the demonstrators.

The second witness for the defense (No. 4) was Shai Carmeli Polak, who filmed the three incidents. The three films were cited as evidence, and parts of them were screened in court.

Decision: the two sides will submit their summations and a date will be set for the verdict.

We waited with the two witnesses and several Bil'in activists for the lunch break to be over.

Case No. 3336/09 - Adib Ahmad Hassan Abu-Rahma, 37 years old, resident of Bil'in.

He has been detained for two months.

Judge: Major Amir Dahan

Military Prosecutor: Captain Adi Noi

Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky and Atty. Nery Ramati

Hearing: additional request for bail

Relatives present in court: the defendant's wife and brother (other members were not allowed in court).

Before the judges entered the courtroom, Adib, pleasant and energetic, approached the visitors, shook their hands and thanked them for their support. He was promptly led back to his place.

When the judge came in, Adib spoke spontaneously, saying he had nine children, and since 

there were only a few days left to Ramadan, he wished to go back to his family.

The discussion was about substituting the detention  (the charge was incitement to throw rocks) for bail, considering that he had first been released by the judge, but  then remanded in custody after the prosecution appealed. At the time of  the appeal, the indictment was changed from throwing rocks to incitement to throw rocks, which is a much more serious charge. Consequently, release on bail was harder to obtain.

The skillful, polite and somewhat theatrical judge explained the need for this additional hearing: "arguments why the request for bail should not be rejected forthwith for want of proper cause."

The defense laid out the reasons for release on bail, among them: the prolonged detention before the first hearing will take place (1.11.09), which will be almost concomitant with the penalty, should the defendant been found guilty; revising of the indictment and evidentiary material not included in the defendant's interrogation; contradictory testimony by other defendants who do not substantiate the incitement charge, and questionable information supplied by incriminators.

The case was deferred for examination and decision to 17.9.09.

At the end of the session, which lasted about an hour, Adib said, "You spoke for an hour, but you did not let me speak."

Since the court was about to hold a Rosh Hashana ceremony, the judge asked not to take Adib back to the detention center, and promised to listen to him after the ceremony.

On 21.9.09 the defense attorneys told us that on 17.9.09 the court did not hand down any decision in Adib's case and that he remained in custody.