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Testimony: S.M.Y.M.


Name: S.M.Y.M.
Age: 17
Date: 16 June 2021
Location: Burqa, West Bank
Accusation: Setting a fire

On 16 June 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Burqa Ramallah was arrested by Israeli soldiers from home at 3:00 a.m. and accused of setting a fire. He reports being denied his basic legal rights under Israeli military law. He reports spending 15 days in solitary confinement. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined NIS 2,000. He also received a susepended sentence. 

I woke up at around 3:00 a.m. to the sound of banging and breaking at our front door. My father went to see what was going on when about 20 Israeli soldiers entered our home. More soldiers were outside. 
A soldier asked me for my name and then told me they wanted to take me for half an hour and would then bring me back home. They did not give my parents any documents. A soldier blindfolded me and tied my hands behind my back with three plastic ties: one on each wrist and another connecting the two. The ties were tight and painful and left marks on my wrists.
The soldiers led me about 100 meters away from our house and then put me in the back of a military jeep and made me sit on the metal floor. They took me somewhere I did not recognize, possibly to a nearby military base. A doctor gave me a questionnaire to fill out about my health condition. About 30 minutes later I was taken to Bet El settlement. I was taken to a room with two other boys. They left me on the filthy floor for about three hours before taking me to the police station in Binyamin settlement.
At Binyamin someone took my photo and called me "a terrorist son of a whore". Then I was put in a bus and sat on a seat. The bus drove very slowly and stopped frequently. About one-and-a-half hours later we arrived at Askalan prison, inside Israel. We arrived there at around 5:00 a.m. On arrival I was strip searched before being taken to a small cell measuring about 1.5 x 1.5 meters. I spent 15 days in the cell in solitary confinement. 
The cell did not have any windows and I could not tell day from night. It had a bright electric light which was left on 24 hours a day and prevented me from falling asleep. There was a thin mattress on the floor and I did not sleep well. I was psychologically distressed. During the 15 days I was interrogated 11 times. I pitied myself and wondered what was going to happen to me. The first interrogation was on the first day I arrived.
The interrogator removed the blindfold. He wore civilian clothes. He asked me for my name and asked me what I was doing in his office. He then told me he knew everything about me. He did not phone a lawyer for me and did not inform me of my right to silence. He accused me of setting a settler tent on fire and told me I was a terrorist. I denied the accusation. He questioned me for about three hours and threatened to lock up all my family members. He told me he was going to put each one of them in a different cell in solitary confinement until I confessed. He did not ask me to sign any documents.
After about three hours the interrogator sent me back to the cell for about five minutes and then took me back to the interrogation room. He repeated the same accusations without informing me of my rights. These rounds of interrogations were repeated for four days. Twice I was questioned by an interrogator in police uniform and I was asked to sign a document in Hebrew. There was a camera and a voice recorder in the room. 
On the fifth day the interrogator phoned a lawyer for me and allowed me to speak to him. The lawyer told me he was going to request another date for the court hearing. The conversation lasted for less than a minute and the interrogator was listening on speaker phone. Then the interrogator showed me a document written in both Arabic and Hebrew about my right to silence and other rights. Then he started to question me about the same accusations. I denied the accusation and was not asked to sign any documents. 
On the eighth day I confessed to setting a tent on fire. I was scared and felt I could no longer deny the accusation. After I confessed he asked me to sign a document written in Hebrew and told me it was what I had told him, so I signed.
My first military court hearing was on the second day following my arrest. It was conducted via video link and I did not see my parents on the screen; I don’t think they were present. In all I had about 25 hearings. At the last one, which was on 24 November 2021, I was sentenced in a plea bargain to 10 months in prison and fined NIS 2,000. I also recieved another six months in prison suspended for three years. I accepted the plea bargain because otherwise I was facing longer time in prison.
After spending 15 days in solitary confinement I was transferred to Ofer prison, near Jerusalem, where I was strip searched and asked to crouch up and down. After the search I was taken to the quarantine section. I spent one day in the quarantine section and when I tested negative for Corona I was taken into the minors’ section where I spent the rest of my prison sentence.   
In prison I had two family visits. I also read the Quran and I played table tennis. I called home once from a telephone provided by the prison authorities.
I was given early release on 13 December 2021, and I went home with other detainees from my village. I arrived home in the evening. I left school when I was in 11th grade and I want to look for a job to support my family.