Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)

Translation: Diana Rubanenko

I spent many exhausting and highly frustrating hours in the matter of Hamed Abu Marya: a detainee aged about 17 from Bet Ummar, who, according to his father, has been in detention for a year now; his sentence was supposed to be handed down this morning.

Hamid was accused of throwing stones and of membership in the Islamic Jihad.

He was detained on the basis of incriminations, and apparently admitted during his interrogation to some of the charges.

The detainee's father, Ahmad Abu Marya, had told me earlier, "They are talking about 18 months [prison sentence]". What he referred to was that the defence attorney, Haled al Araj, had reached an agreement with the prosecution about the length of the sentence, and that a fine of 2000 shekels would be imposed. The father is more concerned about the fact that his son would miss yet another year in school. Over the past year, the father has attended the court in Ofer countless times, for hearings that mostly lasted a few moments and where all that actually happened was that the date of the next hearing was set.

Also  present in court for today's hearing was Yizhar Be'er, a friend of Ahmad Abu Marya. Be'er had come to court to suggest to the judge an "alternative sentence", in which he would be freed to supervision by Be'er for whatever period the court would decide.  Be'er would act as Hamid's guarantor and in this way he could also return to school.

The hearing started after 12 noon, was halted for a lunch break of an hour and a half, and reconvened 30 minutes after the break at around 14:30.

Judge Eran Laufman was substituting for Judge Shlomo Katz who was supposed to have handed down the verdict. The prosecution in the case was also standing in for the prosecuting attorney who had handled the case, and with whom the defence attorney, Haled Al Araj had worked out a plea bargain. Judge Laufman did not object to Be'er stating his proposal, with the consent of the prosecuting attorney, but he was extremely insistent that this would be the last deliberation in the case, and on no account would he agree to another deferral. This is what Laufman said -reading from the case-file the decision given at a hearing two months ago when the verdict was handed down. The attorney refused to allow Be'er to present his proposal in the judge's presence today.

I didn't understand and apparently neither did Be'er, why the attorney refused so vigorously. He cited all sorts of considerations ostensibly connected not only to the arrangement agreed on with the prosecution in Hamed's matter, but apparently also considerations about arrangements agreed on in the matters of other detaineesinfo-icon that he represents.

I would have expected that someone representing the good of the detainee would have welcomed Mr. Be'er's proposal. It turned out that the attorney's loyalty to the good of the detainee is not unequivocal - other considerations dictate his work and mode of representing clients,  because of the military judicial system in which he manoeuvres, among others, his own status.

The judge listened to the excited exchange of words that broke out in court between the defence attorney who is meant to represent the detainee before the court, and the detainee's father - who expressed his profound frustration with his attorney for dragging out the trial, and for failing to give him proper explanations during the past year about the proceedings and the decisions - ostensibly made in the name of his son, a minor.

Ultimately, and unwillingly, the judge deferred the hearing in which the sentence would be pronounced to 15.9.10.