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Testimony: M.S.

Name: M.S.
Age: 14 years
Date of incident: 28 September 2013
Location: Beit Ummar, West Bank
Accusation: Throwing stones
On 28 September 2013, a 14-year-old boy from Beit Ummar, near Bethlehem, is arrested whilst walking by the Israeli military watchtower at the entrance to his village and accused of throwing stones.
“On 28 September 2013, at around 1:00 p.m., I was walking home from school. I was limping because I fell and injured my knee at school. As I walked past the Israeli military watchtower at the entrance to our village, I looked back and saw four Israeli soldiers approaching me. They stopped me and one of them asked me whether I threw stones on Monday. I told him I didn’t. He told me I was a liar and detained me. Somebody told my father I had been detained and he came to the watchtower. My father asked the soldiers why they were holding me. The soldier repeated that they had seen me throwing stones. My father challenged the soldier and his ability to identify me from among hundreds of boys who pass the watchtower each day. Then the Israeli commander came and tried to calm things down. I was very scared. The commander brought me some water and told my father they were going to ask me a few questions at the watchtower and then release me. They took me inside the watchtower where they tied my hands to the front with one plastic tie. They didn’t blindfold me. They kept me at the watchtower for about half-an-hour and sent my father away. After 30 minutes a military vehicle arrived and took me away.”
“The military vehicle drove for about 10 to 15 minutes to a military base, I think it was Etzion. I was taken to room No. 1 to see an interrogator who didn’t introduce himself. I was in the room with him and the soldier who arrested me. By this time my wrists were swollen and I had lost sensation in my hands. The interrogator cut the tie off and asked me how many stones I threw in my life. I told him I didn’t throw stones. He asked me who throws stones with me but I denied the accusation. Then the interrogator left the room and a big fat man wearing civilian clothes entered. He saw blood on my trousers where I fell and asked me to lift my trousers up. He then kicked me on my injured knee. It was very painful. The interrogator came back and asked me the same questions again. In the end I confessed to throwing stones, I told him I threw 15 stones in my entire life. I was scared that if I didn’t confess the fat guy would kick me again.”
“The interrogator showed me a document written in Hebrew and asked me to sign it. I signed it although I didn’t know what it said. He never told me anything about my rights. I think he had a tape recorder in the room but I am not sure. After I confessed and signed the document he allowed me to speak to an Israeli lawyer who told me not to confess. I told him I had already confessed. The interrogation lasted for about four hours and most of the time the interrogator wanted me to give him names and to confess about other boys but I didn’t.”
“After the interrogation I was taken on foot to a clinic. It took about one hour to get there. I was limping and in pain. On the way, soldiers swore at me and called my mother a whore. About 10 soldiers surrounded me and I thought they were about to attack me but the other soldier who was walking me kept them away. At the clinic the doctor looked at my knee but didn’t do anything. Then they made me sit outside in the cold. They asked me to take off all my clothes except my underwear for a security check. After the security check I was not allowed to put my clothes back on and was made to sit outside from 4:00 p.m. until midnight. It was cold and I was shivering. One soldier put a jacket on my shoulders but then took it away. I had to beg the soldiers to allow me to use the bathroom. I was given some bread to eat.”
“At around midnight I was transported to Ofer prison. I waited in the military vehicle for a long time before it moved. I was very cold and banged the door to get the attention of the soldiers. At Ofer I was photographed, searched and given prison clothes. I was taken to section 13 where I was held with other boys my age. It was 1:30 a.m. and the prisoners made me dinner, some cold cuts and potatoes.”
“The following day I was taken to Ofer military court. I waited in the waiting room for many hours before I was told my hearing was adjourned because there was no lawyer. My family didn’t attend because they were not informed. The following day I was taken back to the military court. This time a lawyer spoke to me in the waiting room. He told me he was going to ask for the hearing to be adjourned because the judge was in a bad mood. On the third court hearing my father was there and a lawyer. The judge yelled at the lawyer and didn’t allow him to speak and in the end the hearing was adjourned. The fourth court hearing was adjourned too, I don’t know why. On the fifth hearing the lawyer told the judge the only evidence against me was my own confession. The judge told the prosecution to come up with a plea bargain; otherwise he was going to release me. My parents were at court and heard all this.”
“In the end I was offered three choices: First, I would be released immediately if my family paid NIS 5,000. Secondly, I would spend one month in prison if my family paid NIS 2,500. Thirdly, I would spend two months in prison if my family paid NIS 1,000. My family had no choice but to accept the third option because we don’t have much money. At the end of the hearing I asked my father to send me warm clothes. The guard got angry and dragged me outside where he pushed me over and slapped me in the face. He was going to beat me more but the other guards stopped him. I think my mother saw all this. I was worried about her.”
“I was finally released on Monday, 18 November 2013. My parents didn’t visit me in prison because they were not issued with a permit in time. There was something wrong with the name on the application and that is why it was rejected. In prison I missed my parents and my sisters a lot. I used to cry as night fell, I wanted to go home. I had no contact with my family the whole time I was in prison; there were no phone calls and no visits. I managed to write a letter to my parents which I gave to one of the other boys from my village who was released before me. In the letter I asked my parents to forgive me for putting them in trouble. I felt very bad because my father had to pay a lot of money to save me time in prison. My family was not informed of my release date so they were not there to take me home. A taxi driver who was waiting outside Ofer prison took me home. The first thing I did when I got home was to ask my father to pay the driver. My mother couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw me. She cried and gave me a big hug.”
“I now stay away from trouble. When I see soldiers I walk away and try to avoid them. I am scared of soldiers. In prison I was only allowed to study Arabic, English, Hebrew and Mathematics so I am not doing well at school; I found it hard to catch up. Maybe one day I will become a carpenter.”