Ofer - Plea Bargain, Holding and trading of combat materiel
Translation: Marganit W.
Morning and Afternoon
Judge: Major Meir Vigiser
Prosecutor: Captain Racheli Aviv
Defense: Atty. Tareq Bargout
I found myself attending an evidentiary trial in the case of
Muhammad Walid Muhammad Al-Azza, ID 852829324 - Case 3751/13.
Al-Aza is 24 years old, a resident of Aida Refugee Camp (near Bethlehem). He is a documentary filmmaker and a photojournalist recording life in the camp and protest demonstrations.
In April 2013 he recorded soldiers attacking Palestinian youths during a demonstration. When he refused to stop, a soldier shot him in the face with a rubber bullet, from a 10-meter distance.
(See article in +972 on this incident).
Al-Aza’s attorney lodged a complaint with the Military Police Investigator with a demand for compensation.
The military establishment does not like such things, so they fabricated charges against him for security violations. Two months after Al-Aza was released from hospital, several dozen soldiers came to his house in the middle of the night (as is their wont) to arrest him. He was brutally handled during his interrogation, so his barely healed wounds opened and bled.
The charges against him do not mention his work as a photojournalist. It refers only to “possession and trading in military equipment”. This charge is based on testimony by an incriminator, a friend of Al-Aza’s brother, who alleged that Al-Aza kept pipes in his house in order to make explosive charges.
The discussion today was about whether those pipes were empty and meant for civil use, or loaded pipes for explosive devices.
After the Police Investigator’s testimony (“Can’t remember, it happened a long time ago”), Al-Aza took the stand and denied all the allegations against him. Since he had not signed any police statement, it could not be argued that he contradicts an earlier version. He explained that he had refused to sign the statement because he did not know what was in it.
In his summation the defense stated that there was no ground for the charges to begin with. Had the case landed in the hands of a reasonable prosecutor, there would be no case at all. The defense moved for an acquittal – not just for lack of evidence – but a clear cut acquittal [ if there is no acquittal, there is no compensation, as we all know – N.O.]
As for “reasonable prosecutor” let me add that a prosecutor carries out his/her superiors’ orders, but the blatant and forceful style of this particular prosecutor was clearly over the top.
The next, concluding, hearing will take place on 1.12.14 at 9:30.
Read the protocol (Hebrew); there is much discussion of empty (“fadi”) pipes versus loaded pipes.
On Mondays one can learn a lot about the life of Palestinians. In addition to the regular hearings, there are traffic trials: you can find data about the sums Palestinians have to pay in the records of the State’s Treasury Administration. There were also hearings concerning minors, appeals and conclusions of plea bargains.
Shosh Kahn (from “Women for Female Political Prisoners”) and myself came especially to find out if an agreement has been reached in the case of Tahrir and Saddam Mansour on whose case I have been reporting since May 2013.
Tahrir Sati Yousef Mansour – ID 936077825
Saddam Sati Yousef Mansour – ID 948400692
Atty. Haled Al-Araj reached an agreement with the prosecution that Tahrir’s penalty would be 20 months from the day of arrest, 18 months suspended sentence for 5 years and a 2000-shekel fine.
Saddam will get 20 months in prison from the day of his arrest (17.6.13), 12 months suspended sentence for 5 years and a 2000-shekel fine. By a calculation which includes administrative detention, Tahrir will be home in December!
In the yard I saw the parents of Halil Kariya from Azzariya, on whose case I have also reported several times. Halil was 16 when he was arrested. He has Type 1 diabetes, and has been detained since August 2013. The prosecution claimed he was found in possession of a firebomb. Naturally there are incriminators.
Atty. Al-Arj is trying for a plea bargain but at the moment he is dissatisfied with the prosecution’s offer, so the hearing is postponed to next week.
In an earlier report I wrote about a mass arrest of people from the Jahalin Tribe: the prosecution announced that there are almost 70 suspects resulting from a clandestine investigation conducted over 6 months. Eventually only 2 young men remained in jail and their hearing will take place on 17.11.14.
I’ll try to be there.