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Testimony: M.A.H.M.


Name: M.A.H.M.
Age: 17
Date: 12 May 2021
Location: Qarawa Bani Zaid, West Bank 
Accusation: Incitement 
On 12 May 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Qarawa Bani Zaid was arrested by Israeli soldiers at 10:00 a.m. at Qalqiliya checkpoint after responding to a written summons. He reports being denied his basic legal rights under Israeli military law. He reports spending 7 days in solitary confinement. He was sentenced to 4 months in prison and fined NIS 2,000.
Israeli soldiers came to our old house and left a written summons when they did not find anyone home saying I had to hand myself over at Qalqiliya checkpoint by 10:00 a.m. Our neighbours saw the summons and informed us. 
At around 8:00 a.m. the commander phoned my father and told him to bring me to the checkpoint. My father informed me and I told my father I had done nothing wrong and there was nothing to fear by going to see what they wanted. And so the two of us went to the checkpoint as ordered.
We arrived at the checkpoint at around 10:00 a.m. The commander was waiting for us. He told my father he wanted to take me to Al Jalama interrogation centre, inside Israel, for questioning and told my father to go home. As soon as my father left the commander swore at me.
Then I was searched by some soldiers and my hands were tied to the front with one plastic tie which was tightened very hard. I was in severe pain and asked him to loosen it but he did not respond. Then they blindfolded me and took me into a vehicle where I sat on a seat. I was then driven to Al Jalama. 
Just before arriving at Al Jalama, the commander removed the blindfold and looked me in the eyes and told me that from now on I had to coordinate all my activities with him. He told me I had to tell him where I plan to go and what I do in advance. He said this in a loud threatening voice and then called me "a fucking bastard". 
At Al Jalama I was given a quick medical examination. Then I was taken to a room and a soldier loosened the tie and brought me some food. Then I was taken for interrogation.
The interrogator removed the blindfold and tied my hands to a chair. He asked me for my name and some personal information. Then he told me I was a dangerous terrorist. Then, without informing me of my rights or allowing me to speak to a lawyer, he accused me of throwing stones during the funeral of a young man from our village who was shot dead by soldiers. I denied the accusation. 
Then the interrogator told me my friends had confessed against me and he named them. He also threatened to arrest my brothers. He thumped the table aggressively, spat at me and raised his voice as he spoke to me. I continued to deny the accusation. He questioned me for about an hour and did not ask me to sign any documents. 
At the end of the interrogation the interrogator handed me a phone and told me it was a lawyer from the court. I then realized it was a zoom call from the court. My parents were not on the zoom call and my detention was extended. Then I was taken back for another round of interrogation by the same interrogator.
I was not informed of my rights and did not speak to a lawyer before the second interrogation. The interrogator continued to accuse me of the same accusations and told me I had to confess. He threatened that if I did not confess he was going to lock me up in prison for years. Then he urged me to confess quickly because the accusation was trivial. I understood this to mean that if I did not confess he was going to add more serious accusations. He questioned me for about two hours but I did not confess. I was not asked to sign any documents.
After the interrogation I was taken to a cell where they brought me some food. I spent seven days in solitary confinement in that room. The room was about 2 x 2.5 meters. It had a toilet, a mattress, a blanket and a pillow. It did not have any windows and the light was left on 24 hours a day. I kept thinking about my future and how I missed my final high school exams and wondered why I was kept there. I also missed Eid with my family. I was interrogated multiple times during those seven days and I was in deep mental and psychological distress. I could not sleep and I was exhausted.
On average I was interrogated three times a day and each interrogation lasted for about two hours. I was never informed of my rights and I was not allowed to speak to a lawyer. I was accused of the same accusation and the interrogator wanted me to confess. He told me if I confessed he would get me out of solitary confinement immediately. He told me if I did not confess he would be forced to change his technique and it would become much harder for me. I did not confess. He also asked me to give names of boys and young men who were “active” in our village. I did not give him any names.
After spending seven days in solitary confinement they brought in another detainee who spent three days with me and it was almost impossible to move around in the cell. Then I was taken into another cell which was slightly bigger and I spent three more days by myself. I continued to be interrogated on a daily basis and without being informed of my rights. The interrogator told me all I needed to do was to confess and my ordeal would be over. 
On the twelfth day I confessed because I could not take it anymore. I confessed to posting photos of martyrs on Facebook. The interrogator asked me to sign a document written in Arabic. I read it and found it was identical to what I had said and I signed it. 
After I confessed I was taken back to the same cell where I spent a night. Then I was taken to a smaller cell together with another boy. The cell was so small that in order for the two of us to sleep one of us had to place his feet on the head of the other. The two of us spent 10 days together in that cell. I felt a deep sense of injustice and that my future plans had been destroyed. I spent a total of 22 days at Al Jalama. During this time, I lost 12 kilograms.
After Al Jalama I was transferred to the juvenile section at Megiddo prison, also in Israel. During this time I had eight military court hearings. At the last one, which was on the day I turned 18, I was sentenced in a plea bargain to four months in prison and fined NIS 2,000. I was also given a further eight months in prison suspended for three years. 
During the hearing the military judge mentioned two dates and when I wanted to object the interpreter told me to shut up and to sit down. My lawyer encouraged me to accept the plea bargain because it was the best deal I was going to get. I found it very hard to accept the deal and confess to something I did not do but I felt there was no other choice for me. 
I was transferred to Nafha prison in Israel on 15 July 2021. In prison I prayed and read the Quran and I attended classes in Arabic, Hebrew and mathematics. I was released at Al Thahiriya checkpoint on 28 July 2021, about 40 days earlier than expected. I could not believe it and was all the time worried they might realize they had made a mistake and send me back to prison. Thankfully this did not happen. I went home with my father, my brother and my uncle. We arrived home in the afternoon. 
This testimony was produced with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Military Court Watch.