|Date:||29 January 2021|
|Location:||Beit Furik checkpoint, West Bank|
|Accusation:||Throwing stones / pipe bombs|
On 29 January 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Balata refugee camp was arrested by Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint. He reports being interrogated multiple times without always being informed of his right and being held in solitary confinement for 8 days.
I was going for a walk with some friends near the Israeli military checkpoint at Beit Furik. It was around 7:00 p.m. Soon around 15 soldiers approached us on foot as well as a military jeep.
The soldiers searched me and made me strip down to my underwear. Then they tied my hands to the front with three plastic ties on top of each other. The ties were painful and left marks on my wrists. The soldiers swore at me calling me "a son of a whore". One of them punched me in the stomach and hit me on my shoulder. Then they blindfolded me and continued to beat me while I was tied and blindfolded.
I was held at the checkpoint for about two hours before being taken to Huwwara military base. We arrived at Huwwara late at night. I was searched in my boxer shorts and then I was taken to a room.
The following day I was taken to Petah Tikva interrogation centre, inside Israel. I arrived there at around noon. I was searched in my boxer shorts and then I was taken to a cell where I remained in solitary confinement for eight days. The cell measured about 1.5 x 1.5 meters and did not have any windows. It had a bed and a sink and two tile-like surfaces where I ate the disgusting food they brought me. There was a light but the light was turned off at around 9:00 p.m. I did not see daylight. This was very hard time and I was in distress. I constantly thought of my family. Time went by very slowly, one day felt like a whole year. On the third day I was taken for interrogation.
The interrogator phoned a lawyer and listened in as I spoke to him. I told the lawyer I wanted to get out of Petah Tiva because it was unbearable. The lawyer told me it would take three days before he could do something about it and told me I had to be patient and persevere. Then he told me to cut my sentences short and that he was going to pay me a visit. The conversation lasted for about a minute.
Then the interrogator told me I had the right to remain silent but warned me that remaining silent would imply guilt. I decided not to remain silent because I had not done anything wrong. The interrogator sat me down and asked me how I was. Then he wanted to know what I was doing in the area where I was arrested and what was I planning with my friends. I told him we just went for a walk and were not planning anything.
Then he asked me whether I had thrown pipe bombs at soldiers and told me he had video footage of me. I denied the accusation and asked him to show me the footage but he never did. He questioned me for about two hours and was calm and did not threaten me. He kept repeating the accusations telling me I had to confess to throwing stones and pipe bombs. He did not ask me to sign any documents and took me back to the cell when he was done.
During my time at Petah Tikva I was interrogated multiple times and I was questioned about the same accusations.
At the second interrogation I was informed of my right to silence before I was questioned. Then I was asked to sign a document written in Hebrew at the beginning of the interrogation. I refused to sign and asked to speak to a lawyer and the interrogator called a lawyer for me. The lawyer told me he had no idea what the document was and said he could not advise me whether to sign or not. He also told me he was going to visit me. I was questioned for about an hour and the interrogator remained calm. After the interrogation I was taken back to the cell.
By this time, I was very distressed. I could not stand to be in the cell one more minute. In order to get out I banged my head against the door to get attention. I hit my head very hard against the door and the prison guards came within a few minutes because they saw what I was doing on CCTV.
I was taken out of my cell and into another room which had a mattress on the floor and two steps on both sides of the mattress. They made me lie down on the mattress and then lifted my arms and legs up and tied me with metal handcuffs and shackles to the side steps in a position that was very uncomfortable. I was left in that position for about two hours as punishment for banging my head against the door. The guards came into the room to wake me up whenever I tried to fall asleep.
About two hours later I was taken back to the first cell. The following day I was questioned again about the same accusations. I was informed of my right to silence but I did not speak to a lawyer. Instead, the interrogator allowed me to speak to my mother. I told my mother I was fine and told her not to worry about me.
I was questioned for about 45 minutes about the same accusations and the interrogator told me he was going to keep me in the interrogation room until I confessed. I told him I did not do anything wrong to confess to him about. I was not asked to sign any documents. After the interrogation I was taken back to the cell.
I so badly wanted to get out of that cell that I banged my head against the door again. I also banged the door with my legs asking the guards to take me out and give me some cigarettes. As punishment I was taken back into the other room where I was held in that awkward position with my arms and legs stretched up and tied with handcuffs and shackles to the side steps. This time I was held in that position for four hours and I was exhausted. The same happened the following day.
Then I was interrogated by a policeman. He was calm and questioned me for about 30 minutes. He did not inform me of my rights and asked me to sign a document written in Hebrew but I refused to sign. He then told me my friend, who was arrested with me, wanted to see me.
They brought my friend in together with five male interrogators and a female. I was not informed of my right to silence and was not allowed to speak to a lawyer. My friend said he was held in solitary confinement under harsh conditions and urged me to confess so that he could be taken out of solitary confinement. I told my friend I had done nothing wrong and was not going to confess to something I did not do.
One of the interrogators started to shout at me urging me to confess. Another one started to thump the table aggressively. The third one held me by the shoulder and told me if I confessed he was going to give me a cigarette. He told me it was in my best interest to confess. I told him I had nothing to confess to and continued to deny the accusations.
Then they started to question me about my other friends. One of the interrogators wanted to know if one of my friends had a pen knife in his pocket when he was arrested. I told him I had no idea. Then he wanted to know if another friend of mine manufactured pipe bombs. I told him I did not know. Then he told me my friend had confessed against me and told them I was in possession of pipe bombs. I denied the accusation. They questioned me harshly for about an hour and then they started to crack jokes. They made fun of my friend’s long hair. I was not asked to sign any documents.
After spending eight days at Petah Tikva I was taken to Megiddo prison, also inside Israel, where I was searched in my clothes.
In all I had eight military court hearings. The first one was while I was still at Petah Tikva and was conducted via video link. My family were not informed and they did not attend. My detention was extended and the hearing was adjourned.
At my last hearing, which was on the day I was released, I was sentenced in a plea bargain to one month and one day in prison and fined NIS 1,400. I was also given a suspended sentence but I don't know the details. The hearing lasted for about an hour and the whole time my lawyer and the prosecutor were talking in Hebrew and I did not understand what was going on.
I was released at Al Jalama checkpoint after the hearing on 23 February 2021 and I went home with my father, my uncle and my grandfather. We arrived home at around 9:00 p.m.
This testimony was produced with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Military Court Watch.