Salem - Plea Bargain, Shooting
09:00 - 10:50
We came to follow up on the trial of Omar Abd el Rauf Mustafa Haled from the village of Jus . He stands accused of firing at a man and preparing and laying an explosive charge. We were present at the arraignment stage on 20.6.07 and for proofs on 6.9.07. At the proofs session no witnesses were called because the prosecutor and the defense attorney had reached an agreement on pleadings.
09:00 The courtyard is bustling with people. A bus arrives with detainees, policemen in blue uniforms, Prison Service personnel, military prosecution staff, Military Police, everyone busy. The lists of hearings are not yet posted on the courtroom doors. We go into the office and, to our surprise, a helpful woman soldier locates Omar Haled`s hearing for us and gives us an official printout of the hearings in Courtroom # 3, where the case we have come to observe will be heard.
Courtroom # 3
A single judge, Major Carmel Wahabi
Prosecutor: Lieutenant Samazar Sagog
We are present at six hearings, in all of which the accused are minors, or were minors when the offense took place. The defense attorney for all six is Adnan Raabi, who represents the World Movement for the Defense of the Child (DCI).
09:25 Seven detainees are brought into the court. Advc. Adnan Raabi enters and talks to those who are his clients. Eight Prison Service warders and four military policemen are in court.
09:35 Family members are brought in, among them Omar Haled's parents. His mother kisses us, his father shakes our hands. A military policewoman claims that the father of one of the detainees cursed her, and she asks a military policeman to remove him. The father leaves. Adnan Raabi tries to clarify what has happened.
09:40 The judge enters the courtroom.
Omar Abd elRauf Mustafa Haled is accused of firing at a man and additional offences.
The defense attorney, Advc. Raabi, says that more time is needed in order to talk to the family. The date for arguments for punishment is set at 10.1.08. Afterwards, the defense attorney will explain to us what happened.
Mohab Muhamad Abed elHamid Salim is accused of firing at a man and other offences.
He was an accomplice in Omar Haleds action. It evolves that the father removed earlier is the parent of this accused. The judge, in an exceptional ruling, orders that, because the hearing on this detainee is to end today, the father should be brought back in to the courtroom. Meanwhile, the procedure moves on to another hearing.
Abed el-Rahman Said Awad Marzuk is accused of holding and trading in combat materials.
A discussion begins between prosecutor and defendse on the plea bargain. The prosecutor claims that there was agreement on eight months imprisonment, and the defense attorney claims it was seven. The judge wants to postpone the hearing, but finally the defense attorney accepts the prosecution's decision, and the hearing continues. The judge checks that the accused did admit to the corrected indictment, and acknowledges that the court is not bound by the bargain. On the day of his arrest, the accused attempted to take through the Beit Iba Checkpoint two pipe bombs, which were discovered by checkpoint security. The accused did this at the request of a third party, which has vanished. The judge notes the young age of the accused, his confession which saved the court's time, his clean record, and the fact that he did not initiate the act but acted under the influence of another, and adopts the plea bargain. The sentence is eight months dating from his arrest on 9.6.2007, and a 2000 NIS fine or two months prison in lieu of the fine, and 12 months conditional during five years.
The court returns to Mohab Muhamad Abed elHamid Salim after his father has been returned to the courtroom. There is a plea bargain: 34 months imprisonment. The accused admits the corrected indictment - firing at a man and manufacturing and holding a bomb. The prosecutor asks the court to adopt the plea bargain, because the accused was a minor at the time of the offence, did not commit the offence himself, the shot was from an improvised shotgun, no damage was incurred, his record is clean and his confession saved the court's time. The defense attorney supports the prosecutor's remarks and adds a technical detail: the distance from which the accused`s accomplice shot was not determined. The defense attorney says that in a similar case the sentence was like that proposed here. The accused asks to state that at the time of the offence he was a minor.
The judge says that the plea bargain goes easy on the accused and is far from reflecting the deserved punishment. The offence of the shooting was committed during the month preceding the arrest, while the additional offence was on the day of the arrest, from which it may be deduced that the accused was determined to disrupt the security of the area and harm innocent people. He did not carry out the shooting himself. It was an offence of many accomplices who divided the action between them. The task of the accused was to throw stones at the fence in order to bring security forces, whereupon his comrade opened fire.
The second offence is a step up, for the accused was the initiator, he wanted to manufacture explosive charges, to test them and he even planned a sabotage action at a military checkpoint, which was prevented by the security forces. The judge states that, against this background, the plea bargain misses the point of punishment. Considerable tension in the courtroom. The defense attorney tells us afterwards that he was worried the judge would not accept the plea bargain.
Ultimately the judge accepts the plea bargain, because the accused counted on it in his admission, and in consideration of the accused`s age and the fact that his actions did no damage. The sentence: 34 months from the date of arrest, on 26.2.07, 2000 NIS fine or two months prison in lieu thereof, and 36 months conditional.
Hisham Ahmad Muhamad Gidaan, accused of laying a bomb.
Advocate Muhamad Halabi joins Adnan Raabi.
There is a plea bargain, 50 months imprisonment. The prosecutor and Advc. Halabi detail the reasoning for the plea bargain. The accused does not wish to say anything.
The judge says that the offence is very serious. A strike during which a five kilogram explosive charge was laid and detonated, and the accused`s accomplice fired on the security services personnel with an M16 carbine, and luckily there was no damage.. The part played by the accused in the strike is not absolutely clear. The bargain is an easy one, according to the judge, but ultimately he accepts it. The judge says that he is giving the accused another opportunity, considering his youth, born in 1990. He is severe when it comes to conditional imprisonment, with a view to deterrence. Sentence 50 months prison starting from the date of arrest on 1.1.07, 2000 shekels fine or two months prison, and 36 months conditional.
Adhem Muhamad Ali Abu Hedrus accused of conspiracy to cause death.
Defense counsel Adnan Raabi and Muhamad Halabi.
There is a plea bargain, 36 months prison. The prosecutor and Halabi list the mitigating circumstances. The accused and his accomplices conspired to set a bomb, but did not acquire the explosive materials, the conspiracy did not progress, and no damage was done. A long time elapsed between the conspiracy and the arrest, and the accused -born in 1990 - committed no other offence in that period. The judge accepts the bargain, even though the accused was the initiator of the conspiracy.
Sentence 18 months from the date of arrest, 2000 shekels fine or two months prison, and a conditional term.
The accused and their families are removed from the courtroom. Omar Haled's mother kisses him again, tries to talk to us, but has to leave.
Ahmad Fahmi Ibrahim Shaaban, accused of conspiring to cause death. Argumentation for punishment.
Defense counsel Adnan Raabi.
The judge orders that the accused, a minor, be transferred to another bench since adult detainees are being brought into court. The accused was involved in a conspiracy that did not reach fruition or cause damage. The judge accepts the plea bargain.
Sentence: 36 months imprisonment from date of arrest on 24.10.06, 2000 shekels fine or two months prison, and 36 months conditional.
We leave the courtroom. It was difficult to watch six trials of minors. They could have had a different youth. Advc. Raabi also comes out. We ask the meaning of the postponement of Omar Haled's trial. Raabi says there is agreement on a plea bargain of 38 months prison, but Omar backed off and wants 34 months, like his accomplice Mohab Salim, who did not fire. Raabi will try to convince Omar and his family to agree to the bargain. To his mind, it is a good bargain without which Omar can expect much more severe sentencing.