I tried to catch my breath as I was crossing the street to go to the building housing the Israeli High Court. It was not that far, but age and smoking at a young age has done a job on my lungs. One of my lungs was not functioning properly. One of the guards, stationed outside the building to inspect everyone entering, felt sorry for me and handed me a chair and a cup of water. I thanked him and continued on my mission with the far reaching dream of justice for my client.
As I entered the court room, I looked for a seat and sat on one of the seats where several attorneys were waiting for their turns for their cases to be called up. Three judges sat on a bench that was higher than anything in the room. I felt like they would rather have stayed in bed than be in the court room on this cold and windy day.
One of the attorneys was finishing up his argument. He told the court that he was shocked at how the Israeli Security Agency was not willing to protect his Palestinian client who has served Israel faithfully for several years. He was asking for protection for his client from the Palestinian Authority whom he claimed would show no mercy and would torture his client unmercifully.
The judges tried to silence him, but he continued unabated. His cheeks became red, his voice became louder and louder as he was explaining how the Palestinians would torture his client with electricity and other unimaginable methods of torture. He was angry and kept moving his hands left and right, and speaking in a very loud voice. By that time, the court room was full of people.
The judges did not issue a final order concerning this Palestinian traitor. The Chief Judge explained in a very cold and calculated manner that every coin has two sides. He added that this Palestinian was living in a section controlled by the Palestinian Authority and no one had bothered him for the past three years and there was no indication that he was in any danger if he stayed living there. In addition, the judge continued, this man was a thief who stole cars, invaded homes and had committed many other crimes. And finally, the judge told him that his client had added an extra service to his national patriotic balance sheet by serving the State of Israel. As the judges deliberated, everyone thought that they were going to refuse his request for protection. However, the judges asked the Israeli Security Agency to reconsider their position and told the attorney that once the Israeli Security Agency had made a final decision, the court would reconvene to consider his request again.
I was very disappointed after what I had heard. I stood up as the name of my client and his case number were called up. Before I started my argument, the Israeli prosecutor asked the court’s permission to speak first with something that may help end the case. The Israeli prosecutor told the court that the current Administrative Detention Order for my Palestinian client, Omar Albargouti, which was issued by the Israeli Army, will expire this week. He continued by saying that the Israeli Army will issue a new Administrative Detention Order for an additional four months of Administrative Detention. THE PROSECUTOR PROMISED IN THE NAME OF THE TRUSTED ISRAELI GOVERNMENT THAT MY CLIENT OMAR WOULD BE RELEASED AFTER THESE ADDITIONAL 4 MONTHS. All three judges smiled as if this case was on the verge of being resolved without their interference. The Chief Judge leaned forward and he started talking to me with a soft kind voice like a father giving his son advice. The Chief Judge told me that I should accept the prosecutor’s offer because IT IS A VERY GENEROUS OFFER, AND AFTER ALL, MY CLIENT IS REALLY AN ACTIVIST FROM HAMAS. This information, he said, was based on secret reports submitted to the court to which only the court has access.
The Chief Judge stopped talking to gauge my reaction. He was observing my body language. He knows me very well, for I have appeared before him for decades, defending innocent Palestinians. I took advantage of his moment of silence and told him that my client Omar Albargouthi, who was absent that day, is 62 years old. Omar Albargouthi, HAS SPENT A TOTAL OF 26 YEARS IN ISRAELI PRISONS, out of his 62 years of living. THE LAST 10 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT HAD BEEN UNDER ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION ORDERS WHERE HE WAS NEVER CHARGED WITH ANY CRIME AND WAS NEVER TRIED IN A COURT OF LAW.
The judge sitting to the right of the Chief Judge, whom I thought was not paying attention to the proceedings, lifted his head up as if he had just been woken up and told me to remember that my client was not just a Hamas activist, but maybe, just maybe, a Hamas leader.
I told them in a resounding voice: “Let’s say that, for the sake of argument, that what you are saying is true, then as you claim you are a democratic country, you have ONLY TWO CHOICES TO DEAL WITH Omar: either you charge him with a crime and try him in a court of law and allow him to defend himself, OR leave him FREE WITH HIS 6 CHILDREN AND 10 GRANDCHILDREN.”
And I continued: “This is a travesty of justice for this to continue for 10 years and all these powerful combined Israeli security agencies with the most advanced technology and access, COULD NOT FIND ONE SINGLE PIECE OF EVIDENCE TO CHARGE HIM WITH A CRIME.”
I did not wait for the Judge’s response to what I had just said and I noticed that there were becoming uncomfortable facing these undeniable facts.
My client Omar Albargouthi had spent three years in jail until he was released in October 2013. He lived free for a few months until he was arrested by the Israeli Army again after the last war between Hamas and the Zionist regime. He was arrested without any charges, crimes, or trial. I am his attorney and I visited him in Majdo prison (a notorious Israeli Prison). He was extremely angry and he told me this: “I went back to my land, I ploughed it, planted the seeds, and I was about to harvest my crop. As I was waiting for the morning to start harvesting, the Israeli Army came in the early hours and arrested me. I am extremely angry and don’t want my anger to turn into hate. I don’t want to hate any one and I am afraid my children have already learned how to hate. We all hate THE OCCUPATION AND WE DREAM ONE DAY THAT THIS OCCUPATION WILL BECOME STEAM AND EVAPORATE AND DISAPPEAR FOREVER. WE LOVE OUR COUNTRY, WE LOVE OUR LAND, AND WE LOVE OUR FAMILIES.”
I was telling the three judges what Omar told me of his dream of harvesting the crops of his land. As I spoke I could see Omar’s sad face and strong determination everywhere I turned my face. I no longer saw the judges before my eyes. I saw his roughed cracked up hands from working the land. The court room was awfully quiet and I asked them one final question: “How can a man like Omar be fairly treated in a court of law where his accusers and judges are the same?”
Before allowing any judge to interrupt me, I screamed at them: “Why are you so afraid of Omar? Omar is afraid of hating the ones who are killing and torturing his people and stealing his land. People like him should be free because they are the guardians of life. Please stop this bleeding. Do not be a protective curtain for Israeli torture and killing and do not protect all these viruses that are eating up the body of the country. I am very terrified of what is taking place in this court room because you accept, approve and honour the thieves and traitors and you reject and imprison the honourable, decent, and respectable people.”
Before I left my seat, another attorney named Shlomo greeted me warmly and shook my hand. He was an attorney from Tel Aviv and he was waiting for his turn to represent another Palestinian victim of the Israeli High Court Justice system.
I told him that these judges are acting like the rest of the country and not as protectors of the law of the land. These judges are wasting a wonderful opportunity to protect human rights and that is very scary. Shlomo agreed with me. As I was leaving, some of the eyes in the court room turned toward me as if they were throwing pointed poisoned arrows at me.
The prosecutor extend his hand as if he was offering me condolences for losing the case. I left the court room seeing nothing but Omar’s smiling face looking forward to his day of freedom.
Update: On February 10, 2015, The Israeli High Court made its decision regarding Omar’s case and rejected his petition to cancel the Administrative Detention Order and affirmed the Israeli prosecutor’s additional four months of Administrative Detention. Omar has spent about 10 years in Administration Detention out of his 26 years of imprisonment in Israeli prisons.
As his attorney I rejected the High Court Decision and announced my intention to petition the Israeli Military Courts even though this was the last Administrative Detention Order concerning my client.
It is unconceivable and beyond comprehension that a Palestinian man can be imprisoned for 10 years continuously on a Military Administrative Detention Order without being charged with any crime or presented with a single piece of evidence against him. This is the case of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners where Israel has turned their homes into places they visit and turned their prisons into a permanent residence by continuously issuing Administrative Detention Orders.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)