The banality of a Palestinian's arrest

12:01 Nov 21 2011 West Bank

The usual charges: 'Throwing an object, including a stone, with the intention of harming a person or property,' and organizing an illegal demonstration in which he participated.

By Amira Hass for Haaretz

1. A Palestinian is arrested - a routine matter (the routine in question took place on October 21, 2001 ).

2. The usual charges: "Throwing an object, including a stone, with the intention of harming a person or property," and organizing an illegal demonstration in which he participated.

3. And here's something really banal: Two military judges at the Ofer military tribunal resolve to remand the Palestinian in custody until the end of the legal procedures against him: Captain Zvi Frenkel - "Throwing stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers is enough to justify extending the remand until the end of procedures;" and Military Appeal Court Judge Brigadier Yoram Haniel - "Releasing the appellant is dangerous, since he repeats this activity time and again and cannot be stopped; he does not learn the proper lesson." In other words: He has been arrested and tried in the past for participating in demonstrations.

4. The military prosecutors: Major Netanel Kola, Captain Michael Avitan and Legal Officer Eran Levy.

5. The defense attorneys, whose names are often quoted in these pages: Neri Ramati and Gaby Lasky. Futilely, they ask the judges for at least an alternative to the remand extension, if not an unconditioned release.

6. The witnesses for the prosecution; utterly routine - soldiers from the unit ordered to disperse the demonstration, Tom Hai Tsaushu and Roman Gofman from the Maccabim Battalion of the Kfir Brigade. Gofman saw the suspect aiming stones and throwing "stones, which significantly endangered the life and physical integrity [of the soldiers]."

7. How far away were you from the suspect? An obvious question that the police interrogator asked the prosecution witnesses. Tsaushu: 5-10 meters from the defendant. Gofman: 100 to 150 meters. Gofman was the battalion commander in a "violent DOP [disturbance of the peace] event." Tsaushu saw boulders in the suspect's hands.

8. Another identification: The defendant wore a shirt with a print of "Chaik Vera" or "Chucky Vera," according to one police interrogator, and "Tsigivara" according to the other interrogator.

9. A topographic interlude for those who imagine an open front, an army of attackers armed with boulders and Chucky Vera shirts, and defenders whose lives are in danger, armed with guns, helmets and tear gas: Please add to the picture a "Taltalit," a thick barbed-wire barrier, plus an eight-meter-high concrete wall. The soldiers are on an elevated balcony behind the wall. Dozens of demonstrators who have just reached the Taltalit chant slogans, wave flags and then disperse when the winds blow the tear gas their way. Quite far away, about 10 people are throwing stones.

10. The location of the offense - the lands of Bil'in.

11. So why write if everything is routine?

12. On April 17, 2009, a soldier killed Bassam, the brother of the defendant, with a long-range tear-gas projectile (the Military Police are investigating; results unknown ). On December 31, 2010, his sister (Jawahar ) suffocated on tear gas during a demonstration dispersion. She died in hospital in Ramallah.

13. And another thing: Our defendant has already been arrested at a demonstration and wounded by a soldier who fired at him - in that order. First, he was arrested, tied up and blindfolded. While he was standing near an army jeep, soldier Leonardo Korea shot a rubber-coated steel bullet into his leg, from a distance of a meter and a half. A video camera held by a young Palestinian woman recorded the event. That's how it reached the court. The shooting soldier claimed he was obeying an order from the battalion commander, Omri Borberg, who, at the time, was holding the arm of Ashraf Abu Rahma, today's defendant. That was on July 7, 2008 (the publicized trial ended in convictions without prison terms ).

14. The police investigator recorded Abu Rahma as saying: "How can I be a suspect if I didn't throw stones; this is a demonstration for peace. I wore a shirt with a picture of Kivara (i.e. Gevara ). He is a leader of revolutions and he is with the truth. I did not throw stones. The army is lying. I did not say to anyone [did not order anyone to throw stones, A.H.]."

15. Two defense witnesses who know Abu Rahma well - Sarit Michaeli from B'Tselem and Ya'ar Dagan, studying for a master's degree in law. They were in eye contact with the defendant most of the time. Both submitted statements that support his claim: Abu Rahma was in the large central group whose members did not throw stones. The military prosecutors think that's not enough. Since they weren't in eye contact for the entire demonstration, their claim that he did not throw stones cannot be accepted.

16. Army cameras always record the demonstrations. Despite the defense's requests, the prosecution has yet to submit the relevant tape.

17. Clarification: Abu Rahma was not arrested at the time of the suspected offense. At 1:30 P.M., the demonstration was dispersed. The demonstrators began returning to the village. Abu Rahma remained behind with a group of journalists and photographers. Suddenly, two army jeeps pulled up. Those who had thrown stones fled in all directions. According to Dagan's statement: "When Ashraf and I saw the jeeps, we moved in their direction. Ashraf was carrying the flag he had throughout the entire demonstration. I was walking with my hands held up and shouted that the soldiers had entered the village illegally. When we approached the jeeps, a number of soldiers came out and to my amazement arrested Ashraf." Michaeli, who recorded the arrest on a video camera: "My very strong impression was that the soldiers arrested him because there was no other Palestinian around."

18. Levy, the military prosecutor: "The statements of two representatives of authority are preferable to those by the defendant's friends."
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