Ofer - Membership/activity in unauthorized association, Traffic

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Tamar Fleishman, Ofra Ben Artzi

Translation: Marganit W.

New restrictions have recently been added for visitors to Ofer: bags, wallets, keys, food, drink etc. - all except medication, pens and notebooks - are now strictly forbidden. We were told that a month ago a visitor was caught smuggling a dangerous object inside a loaf of bread. Nobody could tell us what the object was. One person "sinned" and the entire community has to pay. In modern parlance, this is collective

Another Biblical precept also used for the Gaza Strip.

The brutality and horror of "Probation"

This is a particularly harsh measure, which we often encounter in the courts. Detaineesinfo-icon forced to a plea bargain tend to focus on the threat of immediate imprisonment, often ignoring the strictures of the probation clause imposed on them. They don't realize that after their release, chances are that the reality of the occupation will bring another incrimination and detention upon them, as often happens, and then the probation will go into effect automatically. There are three components to probation: its length, the period of time it covers and the offenses that will put it into effect. We have witnessed trials where the judges were obviously uncomfortable - facing the defendant and the family - when they added probation to the punishment.

Military Court of Appeals - Appeal of Probation
President: Colonel Aharon Mishnayot
Appellant: Aadel Naaman Salim Aljanidi, ID 989439252
Defense: Atty. Ahmad Saffiya
Prosecutor: Captain Michael Avitan

The appellant, who has been released in the meantime, is a respectable sheik from Hebron. The charges are: membership and activity in an unlawful organization.

Atty. Saffiya appealed the principle of enforcing probation. The court tends to see every security offense as a probation violation. Thus, most Palestinians who are tried for a second time are automatically in violation. Before the hearing, the prosecution tried to reach a compromise with the defense. The judge then declared that the 'appeal is granted'. The time component of the probation was reduced by half (from 20 months for 3 years to 10 months for 18 month.)
And more importantly - for the defense and for the appellant - it was decided that "the condition is that the appellant does not commit the violation for which he was convicted in this case."

Judge: Major Sharon Rivlin-Ahai
Prosecutor: Captain Yael Cohen-Vagon
Defense: Atty. Mahmud Hassan
Defendant: Ubai Fahmi Alabudi,  ID 950447961 -  Case No. 1913/10
Charge: Holding a position, membership and activity in the Popular Front.

We met Ubai's parents before the hearing. They are Greek-Orthodox. The father claims that his family's roots go back to the 11th century. This is the first time we encounter a Christian detainee. The father is a professor of linguistics at Bir-Zeit University, where his son studies economics. Since he is an American citizen, a consulate representative visits him twice a month. Ubai served a three and half year prison sentence between 2005 and 2008. His father claims that he was incriminated by two people, and ended up, as usual, cutting a plea bargain.

On 16.3.10 dozens of soldiers broke into their house at dawn [ this is in Ramallah, which is in Zone A] kidnapping Ubai and terrorizing the entire household. As usual, it was a result of incrimination. Only today was an indictment presented; Ubai denies the allegations. The father says that this time they intend to stand their ground and refuse a plea bargain, because there is a two and a half year prison sentence, resulting from the probation of the earlier plea bargain which they now regret.

The evidentiary hearing is set for 28.6.10.

The father estimates that every Palestinian family these days has at least one member in detention, under interrogation or in jail.

Traffic violation case in the Military Courts of Appeals

Judge: Colonel Shlomi Kokhav
Appellant: Jodi Mustafa Qawassme, ID 920183332 - Case No. 1745/10
Defense: Atty. Fadi Qwassme
Police Prosecutor: Gaby Romi

Jodi, 53 years old, handcuffed and shackled, is wearing orange prison uniform with two bright reflective strips cutting across his chest and ankles - perhaps to protect him from passing cars when he goes out jogging at night?  His attorney says that the Prison Authorities changed the brown uniform to orange, but the "security" prisoners refuse to wear the new garb. To us, the man in orange and bright strips looks like a Gitmo prisoner.

Sign of the absurdity of the occupation: a traffic violator is tried in a military court, where the presiding judge is an officer in uniform.
The man is a Hebron resident, owner and driver of a taxicab, caught by the Israeli police driving with a suspended license on the road from Bethlehem to Hebron. He got a ticket and was sent on his way. A few days later, while at the police station on a licensing matter, he was arrested and incarcerated.
The defense pleaded for leniency arguing that the 5000 shekel fine is unconscionable (given that an average salary is less than 1000), and thus cannot be paid.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, wanted a heavy fine for deterrence.
"Because if the man is released and the facts are known in Hebron, people there will trample the law blatantly."
He talks of Hebron as if it were synonymous with the "rule of law", as if Palestinian inhabitants, Jewish settlers, Kiryat Arba residents, Beit Hadassah, Tel Rumeida, the 'Contested House', Abraham the Patriarch neighborhood - all sainted, law-abiding citizens who revere the letter of the law. For further emphasis, he cited an accident that occurred a week ago in the north of Israel where two pedestrians died because of a driver whose license had been suspended, and another accident in the south.

The judge called the attorneys to his chamber. They reached an agreement whereby the sentence was reduced to 30 days and the penalty to 2500 shekels. The suspension and the probation remained in force. When everyone returned to the court to hear the sentencing, the defendant's hands and feet were free of the shackles. Was he no longer dangerous, or is the Prison Authority becoming lax and forgetful?