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Beaten, Wounded and Proud – Detainees from the Haifa Demonstration against Dispossession of the Naqab Arabs

It is common knowledge that the police are taught the art of “dry beating” – causing a lot of pain but not leaving clear marks to show in court. Well, today’s police apparently lost this fine art. 21 demonstrators who were arrested on Saturday in the “Day of Rage” demonstration in the German Colony in Haifa downtown were brought to the court yesterday (Sunday 1/12/2013) for remand. Many of them did not have to raise a shirt or roll up their pants’ sleeves to show the judge their bruises – signs of trauma and blood were easily seen on their faces.

Sabrin Diab, a young woman from Tamra in the Galilee, appeared at court with a broken arm fixed in plaster (in the picture, last on the left in the rear) – as a result of the beating she had taken at the time of her arrest. When the lawyers of some other detainees asked the police representative in court “Did he receive medical treatment?” the answer was uniform and laconic: “whoever asked for medical treatment received it.” One after the other the detainees stood up and testified about beatings and pains – and the refusal of the Haifa police and the guards at the Jalameh detention center (“Kishon”) to allow them to see a doctor or receive treatment.

Police Escalation – Also in Court

In the last days the Israeli media was full with incitement by the heads of the racist Zionist establishment against the demonstrators protesting the “Prawer Plan”. Netanyahu’s call to “prosecute them to the end” was not lost on the Haifa police. The police chose to request remand for 21 of the demonstrators that were detained in Haifa, two of them minors. When the hearing judge decided this morning to release the two minors and send them to house arrest, the police rushed to ask for a stay of execution and appealed.

The hearing on extending the detention of the 19 other detainees – four of them women – was conducted in 3 different sessions due to the difficulty to accommodate all the detainees in the courtroom. But the police in its remand request collected all the charges in one package against all of them. To raise the severity of the accusations they resorted to articles of the law that are rarely used in such cases. All 19 detainees were accused of “assaulting a police officer with firearms or cold weapons” and of “causing severe injury when the offender is carrying a weapon.”

Fortunately the enthusiasm and wild exaggeration did not serve the police well this time. The police representative tried to describe the situation as if the German Colony’s streets were full of stones being thrown and told about many policemen that were injured and needed treatment. When asked to provide details he could not name even one policeman who was injured and could not provide any medical certificates.

When the police prosecutor was requested to elaborate how were the “suspects” armed and asked whether any weapons were sized he claimed that they were armed with stones, which were naturally thrown and therefore not caught with the protesters. When asked what was the role of each of the suspects he responded only that “the evidence is before the court.” In some cases the judge volunteered to review the material and answered instead of the policeman – and in all those cases it appeared that the suspects were charged in their initial interrogation only with “assaulting police officers” and all the issue of stone-throwing (or any other “weapons”) was not even mentioned.

Beating in the Advanced Command Post

From what the detainees told in court we learned that they were beaten hardest after their violent arrest. The police established a forward command center in a municipal building on Radak Street near Carmel Boulevard (“Ben Gurion”). The cops were leading the detainees to this center where they could beat them freely away from the media and the public.

One detainee told how a policeman held him down by pressing his knee (the cop’s) on his neck while punching fists in his face. The signs of the knee and punches were easy to identify.

A declaration of the Haifa “popular committee” that was published (in Arabic) against the violent dispersal of a demonstration accuses the police also of sexual harassment in words and deeds against female detainees.

Alleged Ground for Remand

Cases where protesters are detained typically follow a fixed pattern: the cops complain that they were victims of assault and they are also the witnesses. This format has one advantage: because it is assumed that the detainees can’t influence the police witnesses, it is difficult to use the grounds of “fear of obstruction of justice” to justify prolonged detention. This time the police tried to justify a prolonged detention by claiming that they intend to interrogate many people who were present, not only police officers…

The police prosecutor, who recently enjoyed high unconditional confidence from the Haifa Court in various political detention cases, refused to answer most questions. He even refused to answer some question routinely repeated in remand hearings as “how many investigation acts the police intends to conduct?” (The only answer given to this question was “a lot”). When he was asked questions about various details in the case he often avoided any answer and kept himself busy with the mobile phone in his hand. At one point, he even ostentatiously turned his back to the lawyer who was questioning him. When that attorney protested he said: “I hear you this way just the same.”

The detainees complained that they were denied food and drink all the way at the Haifa police station, in prison and while in detention in court. One of the lawyers even asked whether starving the detainees is part of the many “investigation acts” taken by the police in this case.

The fight against the Prawer Plan continues in court

Many representatives of the media attended the court hearing. There is no doubt that the “Day of Rage” protest on Saturday brought a quantum leap in public awareness to the Prawer plan to dispossess the Arabs of the Naqab (Negev in Hebrew) and the resistance it evokes.

It is common practice that, while the detainees are brought into the court, reporters and photographers get a “time out” to take pictures and interview them. These are often difficult and embarrassing moments for detainees. This time the detainees entered holding their heads high and happy for the opportunity to speak out – obviously proud to take part in the just struggle against ethnic cleansing. They rushed to make statements to the media about the objectives of the struggle. Some of the detainees raised their hands with the victory sign upon entering the hall.

Many of the defense lawyers explained and stressed in court that this is a legitimate, just and even indispensable struggle of the Arab population against the injustice done by the state. Some lawyers even mentioned that they themselves participated in the demonstration.

Release, appeal and postponement

Meanwhile the appeal hearing about the release of the two minor detainees was held in the district court. Under pressure from the court, the parties agreed on postponing the release until 8 pm.

After long proceedings that filled most of the time from 9:30 am to 17:00 pm, the judge decided to release the rest of the detainees. The prosecution announced that it plans to appeal. Six detainees, including Sabrin Diab with the broken arm and lawyer Suhair Assad were released anyway. Release of the rest, two women and eleven men, was postponed until the appeal hearing on Monday.

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Today (Monday, December 2) at 14:30 the Haifa District Court decided to dismiss the prosecution’s appeal and release all the detainees – some of them under house arrest.

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This post was initially published in Hebrew.