Israeli military drops charges against Palestinian youths
[10 December 2014] - Military prosecutors have repealed charges filed against three Palestinian youths accused of throwing oil-filled bottles at buses on the highway, after it turned out they had been threatened by a police officer.
The three, ages 15 and 17, are from the village of Beit Ummar. They were arrested on November 17 by army trackers after soldiers at an observation post supposedly spotted them throwing oil-filled bottles at Israeli buses traveling on Highway 60 in the West Bank. The three were taken to the Hebron police station, where they were interrogated in the middle of the night by investigator Asher Ben Lulu.
Documentation of the interrogation shows that Ben Lulu did not follow procedures to first warn one of the youths, and inform him of the charges against him and of his right to an attorney. Instead, he instructed him to start talking at once. He told the youth to stop playing around and that he had spoken to the youth’s father, who was very angry. “He’ll come and break your bones if you don’t tell us what happened.”
Another youth requested a lawyer, but Ben Lulu told him he was a minor and that he would first talk to the boy’s father. “If he wants to, he’ll get you one.” During the questioning he abused the youths verbally, taunting them by telling them that in contrast to their condition, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rich children who drive Mercedes Benzes. At the end of the interrogation Ben Lulu asked one of the youths to sign a statement, but the boy refused, saying that it was in Hebrew, which he didn’t understand. The investigator yelled at him, calling him “a donkey” and forcing him to sign.
The verbatim notes of the session taken by the investigator did not include these exchanges, but do contain the youths’ confessions. These contain key contradictions relating to where they obtained the oil-filled bottles.
The military prosecution filed charges against the three but in their remand hearing, their lawyer Nir Ramati requested that they be released due to their flawed interrogation. He said the three were on their way to their grandfather’s house, with one of them walking barefoot. An hour later, another group was caught in the act of throwing Molotov cocktails nearby. This called into question whether the youths in question were involved in a prior incident.
“The Military Advocate General has written that the same laws apply to minors in Israel and the occupied territories” Ramati said. “So was this an interrogation that ignored their rights by an investigator who is not authorized to question youths, who had no documentation of the incident?”
When the prosecutor was asked whether this was true, it turned out that he did not speak Arabic, so he could not understand the taped version of the interrogation. He could therefore not state an opinion on discrepancies between the taped version and the verbatim notes in Hebrew.
In light of the flawed interrogation, the prosecution decided to release the three youths.
The IDF spokesman responded, “The prosecution acted professionally, according to accepted standards. When differences were found between the taped interrogation, which was conducted in Arabic, and the verbatim notes presented, and differences were detected, it was decided out of fairness to drop the charges. This was done despite the fact that one of the youths incriminated the others and his guilt could have been proven.”