Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Separation Barrier

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Ofra Ben Artzi, Ruthy Ristik, Tamar Fleischman (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

"What we did was demonstrate, not violence. We want our land back. The settlers should be standing trial, not us."
Abbdulla Abu Rahma managed to say these phrases to Al-Jazeera crew before he was pushed out of court by the prison guards.

Judge: Major Ettie Adar
Prosecutor: Captain Odelia Amos (later replaced by Captain Hagai Rothsten).
Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky and Atty. Tamar Peleg.

Defendant: Abdullah Abu Rahma - ID 997446703, Case No. 5327/09, resident of Bil'in.

We were in court from 10 to 17:15.  (Atty. Lasky later told us that the session ended at 19:30).
Two witnesses testified for the prosecution.
The first witness was Saab Maaruf - the police investigator who took the defendant's statements and also interrogated the other witness.
There were several flaws in the photo-identification process he conducted.
Some of the mug shots presented to the photographer were not 'innocent' - they included information about the photographed persons.

From the cross-examination by the defense:

Q: Have you conducted photo identification tests before?
A: Yes. What I did here was not a regular test, but here, too, the purpose was identification.
Q: Are photos normally accompanied by details of the suspects?
A: No.
Q: Don't normal identifications consist of photos of persons resembling the suspect, whom the witness has to identify?
A: Yes.
Q: Nowhere is there documentation by the witness - a name indicating his identification or a signature next to the photo he identified - to prove the identification. Why is that?
A: You're right. He did not sign. Maybe I made a mistake, allowing him not to sign, but the photos shown to the witness and signed by me on that date were the ones presented to him.
---- ----
Q: The witness, Abed Albast, testified here on 7.3.10, and he complained about the interrogator and the investigation. For instance, the witness said he had signed the statement because he was afraid of the police and of being thrown in jail. When asked who frightened him, he said, the police. He later testified that the interrogator had threatened to beat him and to put him in solitary. Your response?
A: Not at all.
--- ----
Q: In a memorandum dating 1.9.09, line 3, you state that there is sufficient evidence in the file to charge [the defendant], and that his cooperation might result in a lighter sentence. You, in fact, offered him better terms in exchange for his statement.
A: No.
Q: Can you actually guarantee that his admission will yield a lighter sentence?
A: I don't promise suspects help for their admission.
Q:  So why did you tell the suspect that if he confessed, he'd get a lighter sentence?
A: Naturally, especially in court, when a suspect admits his mistakes and wants to turn a new leaf, they must think that there's room for a lighter sentence.

In cross-examination the witness admitted that some of the documentation relating to testimonies was missing, and he often used the phrases: I don't know, I didn't ask, I don't know why and I don't remember.

The second witness was Imad Muhammad Yassin Brona from Bil'in, a journalist and photographer who shot, edited and distributed the film documenting the emonstrations in Bil'in.
The prosecutor asked the court to declare him a hostile witness.
She clamed that despite his statement to the police that he was the sole photographer of the film, it turned out that the film he edited and sold contained footage shot by others.
The judge moved to declare the witness hostile, despite the defense's objection.
The witness stated that during the police interrogation he was not shown the film in its entirety, only in parts, thus he could not vouch that the CD the police had is the original film he had made and not an edited version.

After the break the film was shown. It is 40 minute long, but the prosecutor stopped the screening several times, asking the witness to identify participants in the demonstrations.

From the prosecutor's examination:

Q: [showing a picture with the inscription: "Take photos wherever you want, just don't kill us," pointing to a man with a moustache above two soldiers' helmets] Is this Abdullah Abu Rahma?
A: I don't think so. I'm not sure. They all look the same.
Thus the screening continued; the witness was unable to identify the defendant in the pictures, and the prosecutor pointed her finger asking, "Do you recognize the man with the moustache?"
As if a moustache is a rare sight on Palestinian faces in general and on those participating in the demonstrations in particular.
In one of the photos the witness identified someone he described as: "I don't know his name, but I know he's in the Knesset." It was MK Muhammad Barake, leading one of the demonstrations.