As we went out of the crowded courtroom of judge Margalit in Nazareth, we were all smiles. The tense waiting for the judge’s decision gave way to hugging and bursts of laughter. It is astonishing how happy you can be for such a little victory. After all, Dareen Tatour will soon finish her second year in detention for writing a perfectly legitimate protest poem, and within a few months she is expected to be sentenced and there is a real danger that she will be sent for another period in prison.
But this was the time to celebrate a small victory. I couldn’t avoid the comparison with the much larger recent victory of the struggle of the Palestinian people that forced the Israeli occupation to remove the new harassing “security” arrangements from around the Al-Aqsa mosque. Cold headed analysts summed it at “the magnetometers went out, the occupation is here to stay”. But still it was a big victory to popular struggle and it showed that there is some limit to the power of evil. It was rightly celebrated on the street of Jerusalem as an important step on the way to liberty.
Time has many dimensions
Whenever Dareen Tatour requests for relief in the conditions of her detention, the prosecution and judges pretend to know nothing about the constant delays in their courts, and claim that the trial is going to end so soon that any change will be just unnecessary burden on the system. Last time, on May 22, when the judge allowed Dareen to go out of the house between 9am and 7pm, she said she assumes this is the last request for relief. But she limited Dareen by stating that she can’t go out of the house unless accompanied at every moment by one of her 5 certified “supervisors” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law. The official reasoning was that, as Dareen is prevented from any access to the internet, there should be somebody to watch her at any moment to make sure that she doesn’t touch a smartphone or a computer. At the occasion she also added a new condition that prevents Dareen from attending any political gathering and demanded an upfront payment of another 6,000 shekel on top of all the previous bails. (A detailed report in Hebrew).
But this “solution” created a new problem. Four of the five “supervisors” are working every day, and Dareen’s mother is busy caring for a bunch of her small grandchildren while their parents are at work. So Dareen could hardly enjoy her promised new freedom and is still forced to stay in the house all day long. The real solution was to let Dareen free, at least until the end of the trial, which is the case of many violent criminals in Israeli courts. But, knowing the hard stance of the prosecution in this particular case, three of the women that accompany Dareen in her ordeal volunteered to provide a practical partial solution by asking to be certified as supervisors in order to enable Dareen get out of her house more frequently.
The request to add the three new supervisors was presented by Dareen’s lawyers to the court, which requested them to get the position of the prosecution before setting a hearing. The prosecution first didn’t reply, then said they are ready to allow only two new supervisors, and finally, after dragging the issue for about two months, refused to accept any new supervisors. Finally the court set the date to hear the plea for August 1st, at 9am.
Luck and Reason
On that morning judge Margalit was on rotating duty to hear all the coming detention cases. The courtroom was full, as well as the waiting hall. After he finished sending a poor (blonde Jewish) women for 3 months in jail for “refusing to obey a legal order” and “disrupting a policeman’s work”, he freed himself to serve the many groups of prosecutors, lawyers, detainees and family members that were flocking the room. We readied ourselves for a long wait, but were surprised to hear the name Dareen Tatour coming first – maybe it is our lucky day.
The prosecution was represented by lawyer Ruba Abu Dakka, whom we didn’t see on this case before, probably also in rotating duty while others are on holidays. The judge, who is used to release all types of suspects, including hardened criminals, on a daily basis, and to certify all types of “supervisors”, asked the prosecutor whether there can be an agreement. She said no. So he brought in the proposed supervisors for interrogation, one by one.
The first to be interrogated was Ofra Yeshua Lyth from Yaffa (Jaffa). She told the judge that she knows Dareen from the days that she was under house detention in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, and that she used to drive Dareen to the court hearings. When asked whether she can come from Yaffa to take care of Dareen in faraway Reineh, she explained that last Friday she did just this – but in addition to taking Dareen for a trip she had to take her father with them as a certified guardian, making him miss another work-day. And here she is today in the Nazareth court again at 9am…
In the “counter interrogation” the prosecutor tried to deter her, telling her that the trial may last many more months, and asking whether she will be able to supervise Dareen over all this period… As if she doesn’t understand that adding more supervisors will make the task easier for all and the new supervisor-friends get the “privilege” to be allowed to take Dareen with them out of the house and not an obligation to do it every day.
The judge was curious and asked a special question “in the name of the court”. Are you a member of some association or a political party? Ofra was happy to answer that she is a member of an association called “I’m an Israeli” that tried to convince the Israeli authorities to declare a unified “Israeli nationality” for all the state’s citizens. They even appealed to the Israeli high court, but their appeal was rejected. The judge seemed satisfied to be able to put the whole case in some political category and asked (not to the protocol) whether all the three candidates belong to the same association.
Finally the prosecutor asked Ofra what she will do in case she would have to go to some political gathering… Ofra promised that she will not take Dareen with her.
As Ofra was interrogated the other two volunteers, Bilha Golan and Edith Breslauer, had to wait outside, not to be exposed to the secrets of the interrogation unless their replies will lose authenticity. But even the most foolish confrontation make you tired, and each of the next two interrogations became shorter.
They centered on the main technicalities that are always part of the interrogation of bailers… Do you know what Dareen is accused of? Do you know what limitations are imposed on her? What will you do if she will try to look at the internet? Will you not hesitate to call the police? Are you ready to sign a fiscal guarantee?
Answering the question about what Dareen is accused of gave a rare opportunity to get out of the regular script. Edith said she knows that Dareen is on trial because she wrote some post on Facebook that was misinterpreted. She added that she read Dareen’s poem and doesn’t think it justifies her house detention.
After everything went just perfect, the judge asked the prosecutor again whether there can be an agreed decision… She wanted to call her superiors and went out. After some time she came back and told the judge she has no answer yet. This was too much for the judge that thought the answers in his court come from him. So he let the two sides summarize their positions.
Lawyer Abu Dakka tried to justify the prosecution’s refusenik position. As she didn’t find any reason to object to the new supervisors, she made herself as if she is defending the decision of the previous judge on May 22. She said this decision already made the correct balance between the need to safeguard state security against the danger that Dareen Tatour constitutes and Dareen’s right to freedom. She didn’t mention, of course, that on May 22 the prosecution also objected strongly to letting Dareen to get out of her house for more than 2 hours daily, in the name of the same fake danger to the public.
Advocate Haya Abu Warda reminded the court that with the current supervisors Dareen can’t use even the limited freedom that was promised to her in the previous decision. The judge agreed to add the three new supervisors as requested.
(There is a somewhat different report about the same events in Hebrew in Haifa Ha-Hofshit.)
Updates about the trial
In the meantime, the prosecutor has already presented her written 34 pages summary, which repeats and stresses furiously all the original accusations. She even claims that the big differences between the translation of the poem that was done by an unqualified policeman and the professional translation presented by the defense prove that the defense’s translation is not reliable!
Now advocate Gaby Lasky is working on her summaries to disprove all the prosecution’s lies and distortions… It will not be ready before September and the trial will probably not be finished before Dareen will complete her second year of detention on October 11… (For regular updates about the trial check here.)
Keep the date: On August 30 supporters of Dareen Tatour and Freedom of Expression are planning a special solidarity night in Yaffa with a rich artistic program.
We hope more solidarity work will be organized locally and worldwide as the trial is approaching its critical stage toward the verdict.
And we are still collecting donations to cover the legal expenses.