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Testimony: A.L.F.M.


Name: A.L.F.M.
Age: 17
Date: 16 March 2021
Location: Qabatiya, West Bank
Accusation: Planning an attack

On 16 March 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Qabatiya was arrested by Israeli soldiers from home at 2:30 a.m. and accused of planning an attack. He reports ill treatment and being denied his basic legal rights under Israeli military law. He reports being held in solitary confinement for 1 week. He was sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined NIS 2,000. He also received a suspended sentence. 

Israeli soldiers broke open our front door at around 2:30 a.m. They used a special device which allowed them to open the locked door without making any sound. I woke up to the sound of chatting in the living room. About 20 soldiers were inside our house talking to my father. They were soldiers but they came in civilian vehicles because they did not want to draw attention to themselves. I opened my bedroom door and identified myself and showed my identity card. They told my father I was under arrest but did not say why and did not give him any documents.

They gave me enough time to get dressed and then a soldier tied my hands behind my back with one plastic tie which was very tight and caused my wrists to bleed. It left marks on my wrists for a long time. Then they took me outside where I was blindfolded. Then I was taken to a mini bus where they made me sit on the metal floor. Inside the bus I murmured a prayer to myself and one of the soldiers told me to shut up and swore at me.
Then they took me to the settlement of Dotan and left me in a shipping container from around 3:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. I was tied and blindfolded the whole time. They allowed me to use the toilet and brought me some disgusting food which I could not eat. 
Then the area commander spoke to me over a telephone. He told me he needed my help getting some personal information. When I told him I was not going to help him he said he would show me how to cooperate. He then spoke to the soldier and then the soldier struck me hard with the back of his gun. I then gave the information they asked for. I could not sleep because the soldiers around me were making a lot of noise. They deliberately jumped and danced around me each time I fell asleep. 
At around 11:00 p.m. I was taken to Al-Jalama interrogation centre, inside Israel, where I was left in a small cell in solitary confinement for a week. The cell was underground and measured about 2 x 2 meters.  It did not have any windows and the light was left on 24 hours. I did not know day from night and I found it hard to sleep. The walls were dark and rough. Inside the cell they removed the tie and blindfold. 
The following day, at around 10:00 a.m., I was taken for interrogation. I was tied and blindfolded and the interrogator removed them. He wore civilian clothes and had a camera and a voice recorder in the room. He told me he wanted to get done with me as quickly as possible because he did not want me at the interrogation centre too long. Then he told me I had to answer his questions, no more and no less. He did not allow me to speak to my family or a lawyer but he gave me a sheet of paper with a lot of information including the right to silence. He then told me it was not in my interest to remain silent and that it would harm me in court. 
Then he wanted to know why I was at Al Jalama checkpoint about two months earlier during a funeral when the Palestinian Authority locked me up in prison for two months as a precaution. I told him I had family problems and psychological pressures and I left home because my father wanted to force me to go back to school. The interrogator accused me of lying to him. 
He was calm and told me if I cooperated with him he would treat me well. He then told me he had a copy of my Palestinian police file and that he had video footage to incriminate me. He questioned me for about two-and-a-half hours. At the end he showed me two documents; one in Hebrew and one in Arabic and asked me to sign them and I signed.
At the end of the week I was taken to a cell with a collaborator. I knew he was a collaborator because he asked me for my father’s telephone number and I gave him mine. Then he came back and told me he spoke to my father and that my father sends me greetings. He told me he was a member of Fateh and that he was there to help me. He told me to open up my heart to him and he would help me get transferred to the minors’ section and appoint me a lawyer. He then brought a list with the names of 16 boys and young men from my village. He told me he wanted to help those people but he needed some information about them from me.  
After spending a week in solitary confinement I was taken into a slightly bigger cell. It was above ground and had a sink and a toilet. It had the same rough dark walls as the first one. I fell asleep because I was exhausted. In solitary confinement I paced inside the small cell and I talked to myself a lot, as if I was getting to know myself. I thought about my family a lot.
I had my first military court hearing on the third day following my arrest. It was conducted on zoom and my family did not attend because they were not informed. 
I had three more interrogations while I was in solitary confinement. I did not speak to a lawyer and I was not informed of my right to silence. I was asked the same questions and I stuck to my answers. Each interrogation lasted about two hours and I was not given any documents to sign. 
Then I was transferred to the minors’ section at Megiddo prison, also in Israel, where I was strip searched. In all I had about 12 military court hearings. At the last one, which was on 12 October 2021, I was sentenced in a plea bargain to 12 months and one day in prison and fined NIS 2,000. I also received an additional one year in prison suspended for five years. I accepted the plea bargain because the prison time was half what the prosecutor had requested. 
I spent my prison sentence in Megiddo. I had three family visits and I was allowed to call home from a monitored telephone provided by the prison administration. They allowed me to call twice a month until I turned 18. In prison I helped with the cooking which I loved. I became a good cook and now I give my mother tips. I also played table tennis and studied for my final high school exams. I sat for the exams while in prison and I passed.  
The time I spent in solitary confinement destroyed me. I no longer trust anyone because I estimate about 80 percent of the children who are arrested are placed in solitary confinement and many of them become collaborators because they believe it is the only way to end their ordeal. 
This testimony was produced with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Military Court Watch.