Just another day in the Haifa Apartheid District Court… Today it started with tears of stress and humiliation and finished with the tears of joy and relief.
The victim this time is a woman in her twenties from one of the Arab Palestinian sleeping townships around Haifa. She lives with her family and their home was raided by the police at about 01:00 am in the night between Friday and Saturday, July 22. The reason for this midnight police raid was a status that she is accused of publishing on her Facebook page.
Her detention was remanded in the Haifa court on Saturday night, and remanded again for another three days on Monday in Akka (Acre). Later the Adalah Legal Center decided to take up her defense and appealed against her remand in the Haifa district court. The appeal was heard today by Judge Lifshitz.
Some 10 family members, apparently all working class, mostly women, where waiting to see their loved daughter, sister or cousin, together with a few local activists. Lawyer Fady Khoury and Muna Haddad came from Adalah.
We waited for a long time in the courtroom while the judge was going over the papers. It gave me an opportunity to look at the detainee. Since they built the new court house they equipped it with unseen elevators to bring the detainees from the detention cells in the basement and escort them into the courtroom from a special rear entrance to the isolated deck, so you don’t see them on the way.
She was sitting there between two guards, a man and a woman, from the special “Nakhshon” unit that specializes in escorting and abusing prisoners. Our standard saying when we speak about our political prisoners is “her spirits are high”. Hers weren’t. She was clearly exhausted and distressed. The lawyers that visited her talked about her appalling detention conditions.
When the judge gave the sign to start, lawyer Khoury started to complain that he doesn’t even know what is client is accused of publishing. He said that you can’t detain a person for publishing stuff without telling him what he had supposedly published, like you can’t accuse somebody with stealing stuff without telling him what was stolen.
The police was represented by a uniformed officer, and we noticed the name on his tag was “Shanan”, just like one of the police officers that were killed in occupied Jerusalem on Friday. Probably a relative, was the inevitable thought. He told the lawyer that, at this stage of the investigation, he is not allowed to know anything, until the indictment.
The lawyer continued to complain, but not knowing the essence of the accusation made his work almost impossible. He reminded that the right of free expression is important and shouldn’t be easily trumped on. He specifically mentioned that the judge in Akka, in his decision to remand his client’s detention, used as an argument against her the fact that she is linked to a party that is represented in the Knesset… He also said that, as the police already hold all the evidence, the detainee’s release can’t hinder the investigation.
The Judge stopped the Lawyer abruptly and asked the officer why they should keep hold of the detainee. But I didn’t rest my case yet, protested the lawyer. You will be able to continue your argument later, promised the judge.
The officer admitted that the danger that the detainee would obstruct the investigation was decreasing with the passing time. But, he claimed, the main reason for the remand is the “dangerousness” of the detainee. This term “dangerousness” is a code word in the Israeli courts to justify a completely different system of remand against Arab Palestinians that are accused of opposing the Zionist oppression machine. While the courts tend to hastily release criminals, if you are a patriotic Palestinian you are automatically regarded “dangerous”, with no connection to what you are suspected of, and your detention can be easily remanded.
This time the judge didn’t buy it. He pressed the officer to say what specific reasons require that the detainee will stay in prison. The officer said that it is true that they started with investigating one status, but since then they downloaded a long history of statuses by the suspected, so they have a long investigation to carry out. He added that the investigation will not be confined to the current detainee, but that they also plan to investigate some of the people that “liked” her statuses.
At this stage the judge stopped him and set to write a decision. As he didn’t let lawyer Khoury finish his argument, I was pretty sure that it is a release.
From what the judge said we learned that the accusation is related to a status that was published as a response to the clash in Jerusalem on Friday in which two Israeli police officers and three Palestinian youth were killed. We also learned that, according to the investigation, soon after the status was published the detainee erased it herself, much before her house was raided. The judge said that her publication was very severe, and may be punishable, but there is no reason to keep her under detention at this stage.
Finally he listed all the usual bail conditions: deposition of five thousand shekel in the court prior to release, farther financial guarantees by the detainee and a third person, house arrest for five days and a total ban on any connection to the internet, computers and smartphones until August 1st at 10:00am.
It all reminded me about the opening chapter in “The Good Soldier Schweik”, which tells how the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, after the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, was arresting all sorts of people for the suspicion that they didn’t fully and wholeheartedly shared the agony of their oppressors. The only difference was that, in those primitive days, secret agents had to rotate from pub to pub to make people talk. Now, with modern technology, they just come and arrest you for your Facebook statuses.