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Testimony: H.M.H.Z.


Name: H.M.H.Z.
Age: 16
Date: 17 April 2017
Location: Qaddura camp, West Bank
Accusation: Throwing stones
On 17 April 2017, a 16-year-old youth from Qaddura refugee camp is arrested by Israeli soldiers during a protest outside Ofer prison to mark "Prisoners' Day". He reports not being informed of his legal rights and is sentenced to 8 months in prison for throwing stones.
At around 11:00 a.m. I went to an area near Ofer prison to demonstrate because it was national prisoner’s day. There were Israeli soldiers in the area and very quickly clashes erupted. Then I was surprised by a group of soldiers who ambushed us from behind. More than 20 soldiers and about seven military jeeps started to chase us.
I started to run as fast as I could but a military jeep drove behind me and nearly ran me over and I fell to the ground. Some soldiers immediately grabbed me and started to beat me. They also swore at me calling me a "son of a whore" and a "brother of a whore". One soldier punched me in the face and my nose started to bleed and I felt pain in my eye. Another beat me with his gun on my back and then handcuffed me to the front with metal handcuffs. The handcuffs were not painful.
Then the soldiers started to push me over the terraces on a hill. I fell to the ground and I was hurt. A soldier also deliberately pushed me over some barbed wire and my trousers were torn and I was cut and bleeding.
Then I was taken to a courtyard near Ofer prison and a group of soldiers started to swear at me saying bad things about god and religion. They also deliberately pushed me around. Then a soldier told me to wash the blood off my face and then took a photo of me. Some soldiers told me to work for them which I understood to mean they wanted me to become a collaborator. I was left in the courtyard for about 30 minutes. Then I was taken to the back of a jeep where I sat on a seat. The jeep drove to Atarot police station in East Jerusalem.
At Atarot I was left in a room for about four hours. During this time I saw my father from a distance. He later told me he had come to the police station to check on me after he heard I was run over by a military jeep. He refused to leave the police station until he was sure I was alright. I was not given any food and I was allowed to use the toilet. I remained handcuffed. At around 5:00 p.m. I was taken for interrogation.
My father did not attend the interrogation even though he came to the police station. I was taken to a back room where a commander and a soldier were looking at video footage of the clashes. They did not inform me of my rights. One soldier asked me to kiss the commander’s hand but I ignored him and refused. Then he showed me the footage and asked me to name the boys but I told him I did not know them. When I refused to say names the soldier threatened to shoot me and to demolish our house. Then another interrogator came and took me to a separate room. This interrogator pretended to be the nice guy.
The second interrogator removed the handcuffs and quickly mumbled something about rights but I did not understand what he meant. Then he asked me whether I needed anything and I said no. Then he turned on a tape recorder and immediately accused me of throwing stones at soldiers. He also accused me of throwing Molotov cocktails and of incitement and of taking part in protests. I denied all the accusations and told him I was just watching. Then he showed me some more footage and  I confessed to throwing two stones which missed.
I was interrogated for about 45 minutes and in the end I was shown a document written in both Hebrew and Arabic. I was told it was my statement and I should sign it which I did.
Then they took my photograph and fingerprints and brought me some food. After I ate I was taken to a room where I sat on the floor until around 3:00 a.m. Then I was taken to the back of a jeep which drove to Ofer prison.
On arrival at Ofer prison I was strip searched and a soldier asked me to crouch up and down while naked. Then I was taken into Section 13. By then it was around 4:00 a.m. I was never examined by a doctor although it was clear I was physically hurt.
Two days later I was taken to Ofer military court. Both my parents were there and my lawyer and the judge extended my detention. I still had a bruised eye but the judge did not see it. The hearing took a few minutes and all the paperwork to extend my detention had already been prepared. When I asked my lawyer to tell the judge I had been beaten the lawyer told me this would not make any difference and dismissed my request.
In all I had about eight military court hearings. The prosecutor asked for one year in prison and a 2,000 shekels fine. Then my lawyer and the prosecutor agreed on a plea bargain where I would be sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 4,000 shekels - but my father rejected this offer. There were more negotiations and in the end I accepted a plea bargain where I was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined 4,000 shekels. I was also given a suspended sentence of one year valid for five years. I was sentenced after I had already spent seven months in prison.
I spent my prison sentence in Ofer prison and my parents visited me five times. The first visit was three months after my arrest because the permit took this long to be issued.
I was released on 26 November 2017 and I went home with my father and younger brothers and a group for friends who had come to greet me. I cried when I saw my younger brothers and they cried too. My parents invited everyone for a meal; humus and meat, and offered everyone sweets. I was very happy to be home. I appreciated the taste of freedom only after I had lost it. In prison I studied Arabic and Hebrew.