Ofer - Stone Throwing, Sentence

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Hava Halevi, Norah Orlow (reporting) and visitor Jenny L.

 Translation: Marganit W.

Morning + afternoon sessions

Norah’s report:

Since there were several hearings we were interested in, we split for part of the time.

I report on hearings in Courts 5 and 7.

Courtroom 5

Judge: Major Shmuel Fleischman

Prosecutor: Captain Avishai Kaplan

Defense: Atty. Lymor Goldstein

I was present at the following hearings:

Suleiman Salem Issa Adrah– ID 850883216 – Case 226708, resident of Tawani in South Hebron Mountains.

See earlier reports of this case: 7.6.10 and 3.11.10

This is an old case from 2008. One of our members who attended the hearing wrote at the time:

“This may sound funny, but Mr. Adrah is accused of attacking Gedalya, the security chief of the area, of breaking into his jeep and breaking his eyeglasses. Try to imagine Mr. Adrah, a shepherd from Tawani, attacking the jeep of the security chief with bare hands, in the presence of the latter and other policemen, soldiers and settlers who were there for reasons we shall relate later. Mr. Adrah claims that he himself was attacked and needed medical care. Now that he is recovered, charges are brought against him. He is not detained, and came to court from his home. He testifies about the incident…”

Today the judge acquitted the defendant due to reasonable doubt about the charges. In view of his acquittal, he is to be reimbursed for the 3000 shekels that he deposited as bail in 2008 as guarantee for his reporting to court.

Since the prosecution has the right to appeal within 30 days, the prosecutor requested the money be withheld lest Adrah does not show up for the appeal.

The defense objected, stating that his client attended all his hearings in the past. The judge concurred and ordered the money reimbursed.

The rest of the hearings in Justice Fleischman’s court were conducted in a very different atmosphere.

Four young men from the village of Qarawat Bani Zeid were brought in to hear their sentence. The judge began badgering and humiliating them: he lectured them and browbeat them for having repeated an offence for which they had already been sentenced (throwing rocks). My impression was that he was particularly irked by their unbowed attitude as they sat on the defendants’ bench: they chatted with their relatives, smiled and giggled, perhaps out of embarrassment, perhaps because this is how young people behave when they sit together.

The judge himself had a cynical smirk on his face during the entire hearing, even when he was giving a ‘pep talk’ to the defendants.

Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

“ Is that how you intend to divide your time, between the court and prison… ? You will get 14 months. Tell, me why not more? Why shouldn’t I give you 4 years?”

“Why are you laughing? You will stop laughing when you’ll be sitting in jail for a long time…”

“You have been talking all this time. Now I am going to talk and you will listen…”

“The defendant is smiling as if his verdict is not handed down today. I am not sure he understands the severity of his violations, and I am not sure he is not going to do it again, endangering security in the region. Under these circumstances, deterrence is called for, so I intend to be strict in deciding his suspended sentence.”

[Which is what he did. I wonder how the vindictive judge would have ruled, had the 17-year old dropped to his knees and cried. Would that have satisfied him?]

Another defendant, who told the court he was engaged to be married, was told, “You want to get married, eh? You should think about the kids you may have…” And then, “Maybe I should give you two years in jail, seeing that you like prison so much…”

All this was said with a smug smile.

 Numerous family members of the 4 detaineesinfo-icon were sitting in the back of the hall. A Prison Service guard tried to impose order in the court, adding to the fraught atmosphere: he terrorized the audience, speaking rudely to the Palestinians [in Hebrew!] and repeatedly ordering people to leave the hall when they tried to speak to their sons, whom they had not seen for many months. The officer’s offensive behavior was particularly galling, but the judge did not intervene (as some judges have been known to do in similar circumstances).

The defendants:

Alaa Abdullah Said Suleiman – ID 852242833–Case 2698/11, 21 years old

Muhammad Kassem Sami Mahmud Arar – ID 853401792– Case 2754/11

Naji Majed Rabhi Arar – ID 853407143– Case 2546/11, 19 years old

Fathi Hamdulla Shiraf Arar – ID 854732617 -Case 2753/11, 17 years old

[See earlier reports: 10.4,11/ 28.4.11/ 18.5.11]

Since the sides had reached a plea bargain, a revised charge sheet was presented, including two clauses:

-Membership and activity in an unlawful organization (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine)

-Throwing objects [rocks] at moving traffic.

Alaa Suleiman was not charged with throwing rocks. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail from the day of arrest, plus 12 months suspended sentence and a 2000 shekel fine.

Muhammad Arar was sentenced to 12 months in jail plus 12 months suspended sentence and 2000 shekel fine.

Naji Arar was sentenced to 12 months suspended sentence (including implementation of 60 days of an earlier suspended sentence – altogether 14 months of time served from the day of his arrest, plus 2000 shekel fine.

In Fathi Arar’s case too, the judge implemented an earlier suspended sentence, so he was sentenced to 14 months in jail, plus 12 months suspended sentence for 3 years for the violation of “membership in an unlawful organization,” 18 month suspended sentence for 3 years for throwing rocks and 4000 shekel fine.

The judge had threatened to mete out a harsh judgment and carried out his threat.


Courtroom 7

Judge: Major Meir Vigiser

Prosecutor: ?

Defense: atty. Lymor Goldstein

Defendant: Mustafa Muhammad Yussuf Odeh – ID 976862854 – Case 5406/11, 50 years old, from the village of Wallaje, a psychology lecturer at Bethlehem University.

He was arrested on 13.11.11 during a demonstration in Wallaje, when the villagers tried to stop the widening of the plot on which the separation wall is being built around the village. Mustafa Odeh is accused of pushing an officer to ditch, 2.5-meter deep during a confrontation with the army. As a result, the soldier’s leg was broken.

The defense claimed that there is no evidence that the defendant intentionally shoved the accuser, as attested by a film recording the incident. The attorney also insisted his client is being singled out: another man, arrested with him, had been released, and there were others who were not arrested at all. His client is not a serial protester and just happened to be there by chance…

The judge agreed that the film does not back the prosecution’s version, and that the defendant did not intentionally push the soldier, and fell himself into the ditch.

Still, he determined that the defendant took part in the riots, in the confrontation which caused the fall, and in an unlawful assembly.

In his decision the judge took into account the defendant’s age and the fact that he has no prior convictions for disturbances or violent acts. He imposed partial home arrest on the defendant, allowing him to go to Bethlehem to teach. He also ordered him to deposit 5000 shekels.

At the prosecution’s request, the judge deferred the execution of the verdict to allow for an appeal.


Hava’s report

Courtroom 1

Judge: Major Etty Adar

Prosecutor: Captain Michael Avitan

Defense: Atty. Labib Habib

Defendant: Bassem Muhammad Abd Alrahman Tamimi – ID 959225640 – Case 2058/11

 Handbook for Guerilla Warfare

In the dock sits Bassem Tamimi, in the audience the usual crowd of Anarchists Against the Fence, a few European diplomats familiar with the place and the story, Bassem’s wife Nariman with a cousin, and two observers of the MachsomWatch court team.

Again, soldiers who were in the area testify. The prosecutor tries to prove that the protests were not spontaneous, but organized from above. We heard two witnesses for the prosecution. Since it was quite repetitive, I will report only testimony by Witness No. 6, Captain Yoni Greenstein, who explained how a guerilla war is conducted against an occupying army in a small village in the Middle East.

“From an organizational point of view of these things…. There were units that tried to divert my forces [MY FORCES!] to an area of groves below the soccer field and the greenhouses. This is a diversion tactic. As soon as the force arrived, they tried to get our attention. They threw rocks and we advanced toward them into a lower terrain underneath the soccer field…  then while throwing rocks, they tried to lure us to the groves, and there some more rock throwers came and pelted us with rocks from the soccer field above… It’s was like a cat and mouse game, where they tried to lure us to different places in the village… We would chase them until dark, and then at night they dispersed to their homes and the whole business was over.”

Prosecutor: What characterizes the cold weapon used by the rioters?

Witness: There were rocks, slingshots made of leather or cloth… also tear gas, mostly unexploded cans of ours… and also rubber-covered iron pellets which are also army issue and are also thrown by slings.

You may infer from the description that the army was there to prevent the march from reaching the settlement of Halamish, but this was not the case. They had other tasks and missions there:

“Another event that occurred not during a demonstration but during a night that I spent inside the village. I was making my way toward an alley that was blocked by two iron trashcans filled with rocks. As I turned around to leave the alley, a group of boys was waiting for me and pelted me with stones and rocks…”

What was the soldier doing there at 1:30 AM? This became clear during the cross-examination by the defense:

Q: Explain the photos you mentioned.

A: We went house to house mapping the inhabitants.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Photographing them, writing down the number of the house and who lives there.

Q: You mean, knock on the door? Go in?

A: Yes, knock on the door. At 1:30 AM!

Q: So how do you make them pose for a photo?

A: Tell the owner of the house to bring in everyone who lives there.

Then we were told that the rock-filled trashcans were burning, that the jeep hit a rock and broke down and it was impossible to get out of that blocked alley. Moreover, there were units and forces and photography teams and seizure of houses and dragging out of people – a veritable instruction manual for guerilla warfare. Toward the end we heard a few sentences that made it clear what popular resistance means:

Q: Those houses you seized, were they seized at the beginning of the operation?

A: Yes.

Q: But the protests continued?

A: Yes.

Q: Until you ended your stint there… while the protest continued in the same manner?

A: Yes.

The trial will resume on 28.11.11.