Ofer - Plea Bargain, Shooting

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Claire Ashkenazi , Mili Mass, Hava Halevi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.


Selling Illusions

In the years when I used to go with MachsomWatch team to Hawwara Checkpoint every week, we witnessed the agony and suffering of the people pleading for entry permits, and this is well documented. Even those Palestinians who had permits were still subject to the arbitrary soldiers manning the checkpoint. We often asked ourselves what mechanism governs the giving of permit to one person and depriving hundred others. We once saw a green ID card with a 100-shekel note in it; the man presumably hoped this would do the trick. True, we never saw soldiers taking money, but we know that when extreme hardship encounters unlimited power, corruption may result. The extreme pressure the army and the civil administrationinfo-icon put on Palestinians is likely to lead to venality. But we never had proof. The Palestinians will not expose the corruption because they need the permits, and the officers of the civil administration will certainly not admit it.


Now at Ofer Military Court we saw how it works; in the court’s parlance it is called, “selling illusions”.


Ziad Abed Mahmoud Sabatin – ID 97530649

Judge: Major Haim Balilti

Defense: Haled Al Araj


In reply to our question, the attorney said, “Haven’t you heard the story of the big corruption?”

Sure, we heard about Faina Kirschenbaum… it was in all the papers.

But no, this is a different corruption case, one not reported in the papers. Who is interested in reporting this?

This corruption case happened at the Civil Administration: the sale of entry permits starting with 4000 shekels and going perhaps as high as 6000, according to the attorney.

Atty. Al Araj is defending his client, Sabatin, who was a third party in a chain that greased the palms of officials in order to supply Palestinians with permits.

R., the Civil Administration official in charge of issuing permits, approached a man named Mahmoud Sabatin, a businessman, and told him of his financial difficulties. He asked Sabatin to offer permits for money, and he, R., would supply the permits. Sabatin told the defendant, Ziad Sabatin of the prospective deal, explaining the financial benefits derived from such a deal: he would keep any sum over 4000 shekels that Ziad gets from applicants. [My Note: surely, he was motivated to ask for high prices from the applicants. The attorney stated that he typically kept between 1000-1500 shekel from each application.]

The defendant gave names, IDs and 10-shekel revenue stamps to Mahmoud Sabatin, who presumably passed them on to R. who charged 4000 shekels for each permit. All told (according to Claire’s calculation) his bank account was credited for 200,000 shekels.

The defense says that it is not clear that Ziad Sabatin knew where the money was going. His only link was to the businessman, Mahmoud Sabatin. The entry permits allowed their owners to go through the checkpoints without any problems, until the graft was exposed.

Now that the fraud came to light, the Palestinians will be charged with fraud, as well as with violation of ‘closed area injunction’ and with leaving the area without a permit.

The attorney representing Mahmoud Sabatin, the middleman, reached a plea bargain with the prosecution. R., who received the bribe, maintained silence.

The defense argues that the defendant did not exactly receive things fraudulently, because for that you need to show intention: did he know who is next in the chain of bribing?

The judge is of two minds and says he will hand down his decision at a later date, perhaps after hearing the evidence.


Ashraf Tallal Hamed Abu Sneina – ID 858736267

Balal Tallal Hamed Abu Sneina – ID 401992136

Judge: Haim Balilti

Defense: Ashraf Abu Sneina


The brothers live in Hebron. It is not clear what they are accused of; both reject the allegations. Their cases were assigned to internal review on 4.2.15, without the defendants’ presence, and to evidentiary hearing on 4.3.15.


Shadi Askhak Yunes Daragma – ID 85161483

Defense: Akram Samara


This is the third or fourth time that we see Shadi Daragma. He lives in Ramalla and his parents were in court today. Shadi is disabled and uses a wheel chair. Hagit and I first saw him at the Russian Compound and we reported on this case extensively on 28.8.14, 30.8.14, 39.14, and 19.9.14 . We also referred his case to the Committee Against Torture, but he was not interested in getting them involved.

It turns out that he is still in custody. He is suspected of possessing and trading in arms and of shooting someone. He denies all the allegations.

No legal procedure has taken place because (surprise!) the medical file has not been brought before the judge. The case was rescheduled to 4.3.15 to allow the defense to consider a “trial within a trial” [Complaints of abuse and torture during interrogation]; the court officer must verify that the medical records from the Medical Center of the Prison Authority are brought before the court.

Since Shadi is in a wheel chair, the guards had to carry him upstairs, and they left him by the stairs, far away from where his family was sitting. His parents – and we – could not see him over the security personnel, the desks, the attorneys and whatever else filled the hall. When he was taken out, his mother got up and cried that she wanted to see him, exchange words with him, ask him how he was doing…. But nothing doing. The parents were taken out of the hall, while the mother continued to cry and protest the inhuman treatment. All the jurists present commiserated with her, but….  It was heart breaking.


Salah A’id Hussein Abu Gosh – ID 854593563

Charge: throwing objects

Defense: Akram Samara


The case is expected to conclude with a plea bargain at the next hearing. Testimony by Witnesses 1 and 2 should be heard.

The final session is set for 11.3.15.


Najib Muhammad Fawzi Ashak Almutahaseb – ID 906329073

Defense: Abdullah Maraer


The defendant is released on bail.

Charge: entering Israel without a permit. Najib was caught at Hizme Checkpoint on 4.9.14.

A plea bargain is in place. Jail time to coincide with time served in detention, plus 2 months suspended sentence for a year, plus 3500 shekel fine to be deducted from the 6000 shekel posted as bail.


Ayman Muhammad Mahmoud Alsabatin – ID 859847303

Defense: Atty. Haled Al Araj.


Ayman, 20 years old, lives in Bethlehem. He is accused of manufacturing and throwing a firebomb. His parents told us that he has been in detention for five months. Before his arrest he worked at Rami Levi Supermarket.

We are not sure about the date of the next hearing.