Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Hava Halevi, Mili Mass (reporting)


Translation: Marganit W.

A few minutes after our arrival, the last family members of the prisoners were admitted into the facility. We waited for 15 minutes for the gate to open. At the window the guard checked that our permits (with names, which is not required) were in order before letting us in.

Judge: Sharon Rivlin-Ahai
Prosecutor: Atty. Batya Piterio
Defense: Atty. Muhammad Shaheen
Most of the defendants were young boys.

Defendant: Azzadin Abu Shamaa, born 1997, from Al-Aroub refugee camp.
He is accused of throwing rocks and participating in a disturbance of the peace. A plea bargain stipulated 75 days incarceration (to coincide with time spent in detention), 1000 shekel fine and a suspended sentence of 5 months for 4 years, if he is ever accused of throwing rocks again.
Arguments for "leniency": no prior record, admission of guilt and his young age (he was not yet14 when the violation was committed).  It is important to note that during the plea bargain "evidentiary difficulties" were cited. Shouldn't this be grounds for withdrawal of the charge??
According to Azzadin's father, he was accused of taking part in "Naqba Day" demonstration; he was arrested a week later and has been detained for two and a half months (this schedule is questionable, since Naqba Day was
on May 15).

Zakaria Abu Aisha, 16 years old, from Bethlehem.
Defense: Atty. Muhammad Shaheen.
According to the revised charge sheet, the defendant admits to throwing rocks and paint bottles at defense forces, and hurling a Molotov cocktail at security forces last March.
The defense argued that despite the defendant's past record, the court should consider the fact that he is a minor. The judge reminded the defendant that at the previous trial he had claimed that friends dragged him along and he had promised not to repeat the offense; yet here he is again. It turns out that on 12.4.10 he was convicted of attacking and stabbing, together with friends. At the time he claimed that a friend threatened him and forced him to commit the act. He never intended to hurt anyone. He was sentenced to 12 months of time served and 12 months suspended sentence, which goes into effect today. He was released a year ago.
The judge approved a plea bargain, taking into account the defendant's past and the fact that the previous sentence was not enough of a deterrent; on the other hand, the court took into account his minority and his mental immaturity. His admission also contributed to the "leniency".
He was sentenced to 15 months in jail for this violation in conjunction with 3 months for the breach of the suspended sentence. In addition he will be jailed for 9 months. Altogether: 24 months. The judge declared this a lenient sentence considering the severity of the charges. Two years are not a light sentence for a kid this age.
The boy's face did not betray any emotion. His father, who sat next to us, spoke to him in a warm, soothing voice: You have two years now: use it to learn Hebrew, read the Koran, talk to God, use your time well. To us, the father remarked that his son was wrongly charged.

Omar Muhammad Al-Rahman, 14.5 years old, from Qalandiya refugee camp.
Asser Abd Al-Hakkim Shehadah, 14.5 years old, from Qalandiya refugee camp.
Defense: Atty. Ahlam Haddad
It was a joint hearing for both defendants.
The court accepted a plea bargain: the defendants were convicted as per their admission to having climbed a ladder over the fence and entering Atarot compound where they set fire to a tire and a cardboard. The court declared this not to be a clear case of "illegal sojourning" in Israel.
They were sentenced to jail time coinciding with their detention (66 days) and a 3000 shekel fine each, or alternately 3 months, plus suspended sentences for 4 years for similar violations of throwing objects. The arguments for the plea bargain were their admission of guilt at the police interrogation, their young age and the fact that there were serious flaws in the investigation. "Faulty investigation". In her decision, the judge added that in the future the court would show no tolerance for such lapses in a criminal investigation.
Atty. Ahlam later told us what the "faults" were. The interrogation was not filmed, only recorded. A comparison between the cassette and the transcript shows that only a few of the questions and answers were written down. There was no Juvenile Interrogator present; the interrogator yelled at the boys, the interrogation was conducted in Hebrew with interpretation, but the boys were unable to follow and verify what was said. Why are these failures called "flaws"? Is it just deviation from procedural rules or grounds for appealing the charges?

Salwwa Hassan, 51 years old.
Defense: Atty. Mahmoud Hassan
The defendant's son, 24 years old, was present in court and her face lit up when she saw him.
She is charged with chasing a settler with a knife at a checkpoint. (recorded in a film). The defendant claims that she had heard voices telling her to do it. A regional psychiatrist examined her and declared her fit to stand trial.

The defense argued that there are gaps between his version and the prosecution's and that he was trying to bridge those gaps. He requested a postponement.

Next hearing is set for 18.1.12.