Ofer - Stone Throwing, Remand Extension
Translation: Marganit W.
Judge: Major Moshe Levy
At 9:30 AM only few family members were waiting outside the court. We were told that today was a slow day at the court: sessions were held only in one hall and most involved remand extensions.
Most hearings today were brief and fast. Dates for further hearings were set within minutes in 5 cases represented by Atty. Munzer Abu Ahmad. Within ten minutes the judge postponed the hearing of a detainee whose attorney failed to show up: “At the defendant’s request and with the prosecutor’s consent” the judge extended the remand of Mundar Nasser – ID 854709110. The judge instructed the detention facility to allow the detainee a phone call to arrange for defense. We could not hear what the charge was or if there was a confession, nor did we find out any personal details of the detainees whose cases were settled today.
There were no family members in court.
Atty. Abeer Merar came late to court but she had already ascertained which one was her client, Ahmed Alawee, ID 946049335. She had already had a chance to exchange a few words with him before Atty. Tawil arrived to claim that HE was supposed to represent Ahmad Alwee. Thus, unintentionally, we witnessed an embarrassing spat between two attorneys. It was cut short only when the judge asked Abeer Merar if she had power of attorney. We could not hear the answer, but we saw Atty. Tawil leave the court in a huff. He must have been the loser in this contest. Abeer Merar asked the judge to postpone the hearing and the judge agreed.
This case – not the first in our years of observing the military courts – is noteworthy, because it reminds us of one aspect that is not usually discussed in the context of the military system. The court is, among other things, a workplace where some people come to earn a living. Lawyers representing detainees and defendants depend on this work for income, and sometimes they have to compete for the representation of clients. This competition is regulated by formal and informal, overt and covert, means, as is the case in any other profession and workplace. Sometimes the struggle to represent a client becomes an open scuffle in court.
Later that morning we witnessed a few hearings that did not end with deferment.
Atty. Ahlam Haddad represented a student, Taer Jihad Halil Abu Sondus, ID 854557873 from the village of Dura who, according to his mother, was taken from home in the middle of the night. He is accused of being a member of Alkutla Islamiya, the students’ organization of Hamas, since March 2013. This hearing, like most hearings today, was postponed; but we were able to hear from the defense that today saw a wave of arrests on charges of membership and activity [in an unlawful organization] because one student was arrested and he incriminated many.
In praise of ambiguity
Nadal Harbi Munzer Maslah – ID 854603412
He is accused that on a certain day in December 2012 he took part in throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, together with others. This formulation is typical of most charge sheets in the military courts. We don’t mean to say that most accusations are trumped up or that the accused never objected to the occupation. No, there is protest against the occupation and rocks are thrown; there are resistance organizations and other activities, but when it comes to the definition of “searching for the truth” one can’t help but conclude that what goes on in the courts is a farce. As the attorney put it, “this charge sheet is the usual grocery list. In order to convict my client, more evidence needs to be adduced. Did he witness the incident? Did he participate? When did this occur? The charges are all based on testimony by Witness No. 3” (whom we did not see).
Now we come to the ambiguity. Note the date of the violation in the charge sheet: “sometime in the month of December; compare it to Witness No. 3’s testimony: “During the war in Gaza”. How come the well-known dates of Operation Pillar of Defense, December 14-21 2012, escaped the keen eyes of writers of the indictment? Why do they broaden the scope to include the whole month of December? You figure it out.
For us, as reporters, the problem is not the ability to prove that rocks or Molotov cocktails were thrown during the month of December, but how can you disprove such an allegation when it concerns a specific person. Had they mentioned a specific date, one could presumably prove that Nadal was taking an exam at the university at that time, or perhaps he was on his way to Egypt to take part in the revolution…. But the writers of the indictment wish to leave as many options as possible, and the judge has to decide between what he hears and what the Military Prosecution instructs, and his own political views; he hears what he chooses to hear. December is accurate enough for him, and the ambiguity contributes to the risk factor. The accused, on the other hand, had no way of knowing what was said, since the prosecutor spoke Hebrew and there was no translation to Arabic.
Back to Witness No. 3.
On 26.6.13 he testified to the police that during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza – 6 months earlier – he himself had thrown rocks at military jeeps entering the village. The witness said that he threw them alone, but he knew, and he saw others who participated in protests and threw rocks. He mentioned 16 people, including the defendant whom he also identified in a photo and mentioned the day before.
A suspended sentence against Nadal Maslah is still in effect, and it could be activated even if what he did between December 14-21 could not be ascertained. The definition of “the month of December” gives the military prosecution enough space to maneuver.
The defense mentioned that in an earlier hearing, on 4.7.13, the (res.) military judge, Kobi Sudri, decided to release the defendant, stating that Witness No. 3’s testimony does not contain details or explanation as to how he knew about the suspect’s involvement in the rock throwing.
Today’s judge, Moshe Levi, thought otherwise and remanded him in custody.