Um Fagarah girls’ court update

The two young girls from Um Fagarah who were arrested at the time of the demolitions in their village and held for several days before being released on bail,  have had their day in court.  Ultimately, charges against Amal were dropped and Sausan, with a plea bargain,  was given a sentence equal to her time spent in jail, a 1 month suspended sentence and a 3000NIS (approx $1000 Cdn) fine.

We interviewed both girls approximately 3 weeks ago after their release on bail.  They spoke of difficult conditions in the Israeli jails….both were handcuffed and double blindfolded for an entire day and a half and were not offered bathroom facilities during this time, they were both moved several times from one penal institution to another, the food was inedible, one of the rooms they were held in for several days was unbearably cold, and one girl was kicked in the stomach by a soldier during a transfer.

Below are excerpts from a letter written by Ehud Krinis of the Villages Group:

“My colleague Dani Alexandrovitch and I came to Ofer  army camp in Monday 19.12.11 to attend the court proceeding regarding Sausan Hamamdah from Mufaqara (Umm Faqara). As could have been expected, it resulted in a   plea bargain. Under the present circumstances (whereby police investigators   managed to have Sausan confess assaulting a soldier, on her first arrest day   at Kiryat Arba), this conclusion achieved by attorney Neri Haramati is considered a good one for the defendant.

Following Sausan’s contestation, the plea bargain – agreed upon by the defense and prosecution and adopted by the judge – does not include the claim that she was warned in Arabic by the soldiers during the event itself. Prior to the court proceeding, at the initiative of attorney   Haramati, another allegation was removed from the plea bargain – the claim that Sausan tried to pick up a second ‘stone-rock’ against the soldiers before   they arrested her.  The two allegations were made by the prosecution and   accepted by the military judge at her remand on 29.11.11.

Finally the judge’s verdict includes the three   following items:

1. a jail sentence of 8 days, concurrent with the time Sausan was held in custody at the end of last month.

2. suspended jail sentence of one month for the next two years

3. a 3,000 NIS fine.

As for Amal Hamamdah, arrested along with Sausan on 24.11.11, attorney Haramati informed no charges would be pressed against her so she would not have to attend to the court today 21.12.11 as previously required.

Response to our appeal in our last update, when we called for donations for Sausan and Amal’s legal expenses, has been good. About twenty donors have helped us significantly to cover the costs of the court proceedings against the two detainees. Our efforts are not over: At the initiative of women activists of “Beit Ha’am” on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Blvd. who visited Sausan and Amal at Mufaqara last week, a benefit and solidarity evening is planned for next week.”

An extended report on this story, written by Assaf Oron of the Villages Group,  is available at:

http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/update-about-sausan-and-amal-2-palestinian-girls-arrested-for-trying-to-prevent-their-homes-demolition/

If you are interested in learning more, the above report is well worth reading.

Obviously, both girls are now free.  But both underwent humiliation, discomfort and considerable anxiety as a result of these trumped up charges against them.  In the end, several buildings in their village were intentionally demolished (including Sausan’s family home) by the Israeli military machine.  Sausan’s mother’s leg is still healing.  Neither girl committed any crime but Sausan now has a criminal record.  The whole incident has cost this family plenty, in terms of human heartache and in the costs associated with lawyers, fines, travel to and from Jerusalem, etc.  Justice has not been served, but the anguish of ongoing jail time has been averted.  Let us pray that healing can occur and that these girls can move on with their lives.

The Villages Group is an Israeli human rights group who regularly visit Palestinians in their homes and offer what help they can to them.  When I asked one of them why they do what they do, she told me that they have to do what is right.  She also said “they (the Israeli government) can tell me lots of things, but they cannot tell me who I can be friends with.”  More information about the Villages Group can be found at http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/about

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

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