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Testimony: W.H.K.A.


Name: W.H.K.A.
Age: 15
Date: 31 May 2020
Location: Balata, West Bank
Accusation: Attempt to set a fire

On 31 May 2020, a 15-year-old minor from Balata refugee camp was arrested by Israeli soldiers at near a settlement at midnight. He reports being interrogated without first consulting with a lawyer or being informed of his right to silence.  

I was on the hill near an Israeli settlement. It was around midnight. Suddenly a large group of Israeli soldiers ambushed me. First they beat me and then they tied my hands behind my back with one plastic tie which was very tight and painful. I snapped the tie twice because it was too tight and the soldiers slapped and swore at me calling me “a bastard”. They also shackled my ankles and blindfolded me. 
I was left on the ground for a short while and then they walked me to the nearby settlement. On the way the soldiers kept swearing at me. They also slapped me and made fun of me. Inside the settlement I was taken to a shipping container.  
At around 2:00 a.m. I was taken to Huwwara military base where I was strip searched before being taken to a room. The following day I was taken to Megiddo prison inside Israel. I was searched in my boxer shorts before being taken to the quarantine section used for the Corona Virus. I remained tied but my blindfold was removed. The following day I was taken for interrogation.
Just before I was taken to the interrogation room a soldier replaced the plastic tie with metal handcuffs. He handcuffed me to the front. The interrogator asked me how I was and wanted to know who incited me to go near the settlement. He was aggressive and told me he was sick and tired of Palestinian “silly tactics and behavior”. Before answering any questions I insisted on speaking to my father on the phone and he allowed me to. I told my father where I was but I did not tell him I was beaten because I did not want him to worry about me. 
The interrogator spoke to me through an intercom behind glass because of the Corona Virus regulations. He did not inform me of my rights and accused me of attempting to set a fire near the settlement. I denied the accusation. He wanted me to give him names of other boys but I did not give any names. He had a voice recorder and questioned me for about an hour. At the end of the interrogation he showed me documents in Hebrew and asked me to sign them but I refused to sign. 
Then I was taken to another room and a lawyer came in and talked to me. The lawyer asked me whether I had confessed and I told him I had not. Neither the lawyer nor the interrogator told me I had the right to remain silent. After the interrogation I was taken back to the quarantine section.
The following day I was told I had a military court hearing but it turned out I had another interrogation. The interrogator did not inform me of my right to silence and did not allow me to speak to a lawyer. He accused me again of attempting to set fire near the settlement. I denied the accusation.  He questioned me for about 30 minutes and at the end he showed me documents in Hebrew and asked me to sign them and when I refused to sign he yelled at me. Still, I did not sign.
I had six military court hearings and at the last one I was sentenced in a plea bargain to four months in prison and fined NIS 2,000. I was also given another eight months in prison suspended for three years. I accepted the bargain because my lawyer told me to.
I spent my prison time at Megiddo prison, in Israel. My parents finally received a permit to visit me but it was on the day I was released, so I did not have any family visits. The prison authorities allowed us to speak on the phone and I called my parents once every two weeks for about 10 minutes.
I was released on 23 September 2020 and I went home with another prisoner from my village. I arrived home at around 7:00 p.m.