Ofer - Stone Throwing, Minors

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צופות ומדווחות: 
Tova Szeintuch, Hava Halevi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

We arrived at the last, most dramatic moment of the first trial. The judge announced, "According to the agreement between the sides, and by the authority invested in me, I declare the indictment null and void. The money deposited by the defendants will be reimbursed." There was only one defendant (boy) in the courtroom, Halil Ali Halil Salame. The others, we were told, were waiting outside, in the waiting room and did not enter the courtroom (perhaps they posed security risk?)

The story is as follows: In October 2008, 8 boys were arrested charged with throwing rocks. They denied the allegations. Their defense attorney, Mahmud Hassan, from Addameer Organization was able to release them on bail for 7500 shekel each, and they have been living in their village ever since, perhaps going to school, perhaps trying to earn a living.

Twenty months passed. The prosecution failed to produce witnesses to corroborate the charges, and today the charges were dropped and the 7500 shekels - plus interest - were returned. We'll try to follow up to find out if and when the money will be reimbursed.

[See article by Amira Hass in

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/amira-hass-eight-palestinian-youths-and-the-crime-they-didn-t-commit-1.306641 ]

Courtroom 1 presided by Hilit Bar On.

Several attorneys represented ten boys whose names we have, but we cannot report on the proceedings because there were none. It was a big mess. Handcuffed boys in brown prison uniform kept coming and going, but we could not make out anything. Security guards made sure the detaineesinfo-icon' mothers sat on the farthest bench (with 4 empty rows in the front). Maybe this, too, was for security reasons. The attorneys whispered with the prosecutor, Michael Avitan, while female soldiers kept bringing reams of legal files. The judge smiled benignly and the members of the detainees' families exchanged familial and other information in loud voices and with hand gestures. We were not part of this party, but it was still worth it, because we got to attend Ismail's trial.

Ismail is represented by Atty. Muhammad Shadfan. Ismail is a tall man, wearing light colored clothes and speaking good, articulate Hebrew.  He is a resident of Idna village, married to two women and father of twelve. Until his arrest he had a steady job as a repairman with a contractor in Kiryat Gat. He too came "from home" i.e., he had been released until his hearing. His charge sheet has 19 counts, all related to traffic violations. Today he is charged with driving an Israeli vehicle without a license and without insurance. In addition, a Japanese knife was found in the car. However, the court, quite rightly, was not interested in that knife.

Where was he caught? On the main road leading to the village. This is his version: The Palestinian Authority forbids the buying of second hand Israeli cars. If you want a car, you must buy a new one, imported by the PA, presumably by agreements with Arab countries. A new car, with taxes, can cost between 120,000 and 150, 000 shekels. Ismail does not have this kind of money so, like many other Palestinians, he bought a used car from an Israeli. He paid 3500 shekels and used it for running errands, such as shopping in the market, taking a child or a wife to the doctor, driving kids to school etc. To his work in Kiryat Gat, he rides a yellow cab, like everyone else. The PA does not issue permits or insurance for such cars nor does it offer the mandatory safety tests. Thus, Ismail uses the car only in and around the village, hoping he won't be caught. But he was caught more than once, and this time he was brought to trial. Smiling pleasantly, the judge tells him, "It is dangerous to drive like this." Obviously, she is not aware of the danger of being a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories, nor of the PA regulations regarding vehicles.

Ismail's license was revoked for three years as of today, (his reaction: I accept. It is not much of a punishment: he can't get a license anyway), 3 months probation if he repeats the offense, and several other penalties regarding driving a car, plus a 5000-shekel fine. His response: I can't pay it. I don't have the money.

Following negotiations, the honorable judge agreed that the sum could be paid in 10 installments, 500 shekels each month.

Here are my questions: What kind of 'deal' has the Israeli government colluded with the PA to make it impossible for Palestinians to buy a second hand car from Israelis? Who gets the taxes paid for the foreign cars (40,000 shekels on average)? Do PA dignitaries pay the same tax? What genius came up with this evil plan which criminalizes most West Bank residents and extracts exorbitant fines from them? What pressures were applied to make the PA comply with such an arrangement?

Now we shall see how long it will take the police to close the case and restore his work permit, so he can pay the fine and provide for his wives and children.

As for the trial of Ubai Fahmi Al Abudi (see Ofer report of 6.6.10) - the family had to wait a whole day, in terrible heat, but the prosecution witnesses never showed up. The trial is set to continue on 20.7.10.