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Norah Orlow (reporting)

Translation: Diana Rubanenko

We were not meant to be present at any proceedings in Ofer that Sunday, but the previous day Attorney Kawwar told me that his petition to postpone the hearing of the case of Hussam Shaheen to a later date had been dismissed by the judge. Since we have been following the proceedings about Hussam Shaheen for a considerable time (see reports from Ofer dated 20.2.07, 22. 10.07, 14.1.09, and 4.2. 09), I thought it appropriate to attend this time as well.


In a previous case, Hussam Shaheen was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. He is serving his sentence in Ramon prison. Following the incrimination of a relative, another case was opened which is about to reach the "evidentiary stage". On 4.2.09, his attorney asked to defer the hearing to as late a date as possible, because he had decided to file a petition to the High Court of Justice concerning the flawed conducting of Hussam's previous trial.

A hearing of the second case, his attorney said at the time, might influence the discussion of the previous case at the HCJ.

"In his opinion, the whole matter of the previous case is fundamentally mistaken and a matter of wrong identification". The judge admitted his petition, and so the evidentiary session in that case was deferred to 13.5.09.(from the Ofer report, 4.2.09).

On 13.5.09, the petition to the HCJ was still not ready, so the hearing was deferred again, to July, and later to 13.9.09. Meanwhile, the petition to the HCJ was filed (the previous week), and Attorney Kawwar sought a further postponement until the appeal was heard. The judge rejected his request, and insisted on holding the hearing as scheduled.

To attend the hearing on Sunday, the prisoner Shaheen had to leave Ramon Prison (near Mitzpeh Ramon in southern Israel) the previous Thursday, embark on a long journey, and then spend 2 days in the Ofer Detention Center until the time set for the hearing. After the hearing, he would have to spend another day in Ofer, and would only return on Monday to his permanent "domicile" in Ramon prison. And all this took place during the Ramadan fast, without food or drink, of course.

As to the hearing itself:

The defendant: Hussam Zuhadi Daud Zahaika (Shaheen) -

Case no. 6480/06

Judge: Major Menachem Lieberman

Prosecutor:  Lt. Tom Mor

Defence: Attorney Fida Kawar

Charge: Attempted manslaughter

The parents of the defendant were present.

The judge asked why the defence had requested a further postponement. Attorney Kawwar again explained that a petition had been filed with the HCJ, as the judge had already been told before. The judge demanded an explanation regarding this additional postponement and wanted to know the content of the appeal. The defence's reply was: legal errors. In his opinion, the defendant should have been acquitted, at least on grounds of benefit of the doubt.

The judge then asked to see the the petition, and the defence promised to send him the application of the appeal the following week. The prosecution had no objection to further postponement, if the court accepted it. Afterwards an internal session would be held on 22.9.09 (without the defence).

The session took 20-30 minutes at most. The application of the petition could have been sent without summoning all the parties concerned - and particularly, without harassing the prisoner (and his attorney) to travel such a long way during Ramadan - only to discuss the next deferral. Flawed discretion? Or rather a lack of good will, to say the least...?