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Testimony: A.T.R.A.


Name: A.T.R.A.
Age: 17
Date: 11 January 2021
Location: Qabatiya, West Bank
Accusation: Weapon possession

On 11 January 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Qabatiya was arrested from home by Israeli soldiers at 4:00 a.m. He reports being held in solitary confinement for 15 days at Al Jalama interrogation centre, Israel.  

Around 10 Israeli soldiers entered our home at 4:00 a.m. My mother later told me that she was already awake and was shocked to see the soldiers suddenly push open our front door. My father came to my bedroom and woke me up telling me the soldiers were looking for me. 
One of the soldiers then approached me and asked me for my weapons. I told him I had no weapons. Then he took my identity card, asked me to unlock my mobile phone and ordered the other soldiers to search our home. One of the soldiers aimed his gun in my face while another soldier threw all my clothes on the floor. 
Then a soldier tied my hands behind my back with one plastic tie which was very tight and painful. It cut into my wrists until I bled. Then a soldier blindfolded me and took me outside where a military jeep was waiting. The soldiers did not give my family any documents. They took me to the back of a jeep and made me sit on the metal floor. Then the jeep drove to the nearby settlement of Dotan. 
At the settlement they made me sit on a chair in an outdoor area for about 13 hours. It was a cold night. Later I was taken into a shipping container but I was not given any food or water. Soldiers passing by slapped me and swore at me. At around 9:00 p.m. I was driven to Al Jalama interrogation centre in Israel where I was put in a small cell in solitary confinement for 15 days.
The cell was very small and had a mattress on the floor. The toilet was also in the same cell and I had no pillow. There were no windows and no daylight came through. The only way I could tell the time of day was from the types of meals they brought me. I found it very hard to sleep. There was a bright light in the cell which they sometimes dimmed. I slept on average about four hours a day. I fell asleep from exhaustion. 
During this time I was interrogated multiple times, once every two days for 3-7 hours each time. While still in the cell I was given a piece of paper which informed me of my rights. I read it but I did not understand everything. There was something about the right to silence and another saying they had no right to beat me up. It also said I had the right to consult with a lawyer who would speed up the process for me. They made me sign the piece of paper.
The first interrogation was on the fourth day. A female lawyer visited me before the interrogation and told me not to worry and not to be afraid. She also told me I had the right to remain silent. Then I was taken into the interrogation room. I asked for a cigarette and the interrogator gave me one. He also gave me a cup of coffee. The interrogator was in civilian clothes. He did not inform me of my right to silence. 
The interrogator asked me for my name and told me he had 14 confessions against me. He told me I was accused of shooting at a settlement, planning a terrorist act, making pipe bombs and throwing pipe bombs at military jeeps. He also told me I was accused of possessing a gun. I denied all the accusations.
The interrogator was calm and told me if I did not confess he was going to keep me in the cell and interrogate me for one or two months, or as long as it takes for me to confess and then I would spend seven years in prison. He questioned me for about 30 minutes but did not ask me to sign any documents. Then I had a military court hearing via zoom. My parents did not attend and the military judge extended my detention. Then I was taken back to the cell.
I had about seven more interrogations. I did not speak to a lawyer except before the first interrogation and none of the interrogators informed me of my right to silence. The interrogators used different techniques to try to extract a confession from me. One would be calm and nice and the other would yell and shout at me and call me " an arsehole". One of them threatened to arrest my father. They usually asked me to sign documents written in Arabic which I signed. After each interrogation I was sent back to the cell.
I spend 15 days in the cell which I found very hard. I could not stop my mind from thinking and worrying. On the 16th day they brought in another detainee.
On the 9th day I confessed to throwing stones and to possessing a pipe bomb and 45 bullets. I confessed because I could not take it any longer. I also thought to myself it was better to confess to relatively minor offenses, rather than be convicted of more serious ones. 
After I confessed I was taken to another cell with informants. They wanted me to tell them everything but I only spoke about the things I had already confessed to. After spending some time with the informants, I was taken back to the small cell.
Later I was taken to the quarantine section at Megiddo prison, also in Israel, where I spent four days. They wanted to strip search me but I refused. Then I had a fight with one of the detainees and I was transferred to the juvenile section.
In all I had about 10 military court hearings. At the last one, which was on 9 March 2021, I was sentenced in a plea bargain to six months in prison and fined NIS 1,000. I was also given a further 12 months in prison suspended for 3 years. I accepted the plea bargain because I did not want to spend seven years in prison which I was told was the alternative if I rejected the plea bargain.
On 1 May 2021 I was transferred to the Negev prison inside Israel as punishment because I kept having fights with the other detainees. I was released at Al Thahiriyeh checkpoint on 20 June 2021 and I went home with my father, my uncle and my cousins. I 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.