Bassem Tamimi's Trial: Police Interrogator Admits Systematic Infringements on Minors Rights

In his testimony before the military court in the trial against Palestinian protest organizer, Bassem Tamimi, police interrogator said today that Palestinian minors are never granted their right to have a parent present during questioning.

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Police officer Moshe Madyuni, an interrogator in the Israeli police's Central Unit, testified before the military court today that Palestinian minors are never offered the right to have their parents with them during questioning and that the police station does not have the facilities to allow them to sleep. Officer Madyuni was one of the interrogators who questioned the two main witnesses against West Bank protest organizer, Bassem Tamimi, both of them minors of 14 and 15 years old.

Bassem Tamimi was arrested last March, and is behind bars for the past nine months.

During his testimony today, the officer said, "Usually, a minor is supposed to be interrogated in the presence of a parent, unless in obstructs the interrogation or if the minor does not want [his parents presence]. In this case I didn't bother with it – the suspects were brought in from the Territories, so of course we didn't have any contact with his parents […] I don't remember a single case in which we questioned a minor from the Territories in the presence of his parents.”

Moshe Maduni was the lead interrogator of both Islam Dar Ayyoub and Mo'atasem Tamimi, 14 and 15 years old, respectively. The two boys, who were questioned unlawfully and in violation of their rights, incriminated Tamimi of having allegedly told them and others to throw stones during the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh.

The law requires that minors be interrogated only by certified youth interrogators. Officer Madyuni was the only qualified youth interrogator out of four policemen involved in their questioning. Despite that fact, the officer himself testified today, “I am a qualified youth interrogator, but as a rule, on a day to day basis, I don't serve as one […] I know the basic guidelines [for interrogating minors] more or less.”

The video recordings of the minors' interrogations show that they were not properly informed about their right to remain silent, as the law requires. When Madyuni was asked at court to cite the proper warning of the right to remain silent in Arabic, he did so correctly, saying “You do not have to say anything. Everything you say will be documented and could be used as evidence against you in court. Refraining from answering questions will strengthen the evidence against you.” However, when confronted with what he actually told one of the boys, “We want only the truth, you must tell us everything that happened”, the officer said that such a sentence could also be considered properly informing a suspect of his rights.

Despite clear evidence from the interrogation's recording that pressure was applied on the boys to incriminate organizers, Madyuni denied having leading them to say what interrogators wanted to hear. Madyuni denied leading his subjects even when confronted with sentences such as “From the first day you started throwing stones, who incited you? You are a young boy – older people incite you”, or “Do you want to turn a page and start over or don't you? The older people incite you, you are a little boy.”

Legal background
On March 24th, 2011, a massive contingent of Israeli Soldiers raided the Tamimi home at around noon, only minutes after he entered the house to prepare for a meeting with a European diplomat. He was arrested and subsequently charged.

The main evidence in Tamimi's case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was taken from his bed at gunpoint on the night of January 23rd. In his interrogation the morning after his arrest, Islam alleged that Bassem and Naji Tamimi organized groups of youth into "brigades", charged with different responsibilities during the demonstrations: some were allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, others of blocking roads, etc.

During a trial-within-a-trial procedure in Islam's trial, motioning for his testimony to be ruled inadmissible, it was proven that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following ways:

  1. Despite being a minor, he was questioned in the morning following his arrest, having been denied sleep.
  2. He was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.
  3. He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning.
  4. He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he is "expected to tell the truth".
  5. Only one of four interrogators present was a qualified youth interrogator.

The audio-visual recording of another central witness against Tamimi, 15 year-old Mo'atasem Tamimi, proves that he too was questioned in a similarly unlawful manner.

Since the beginning of the village's struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted more than 80 protest related arrests. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes approximately 10% of its population.

Tamimi's arrest corresponds to the systematic arrest of civil protest leaders all around the West Bank, as in the case of the villages Bil'in and Ni'ilin.

Only recently the Military Court of Appeals has aggravated the sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the village of Bilin, sending him to 16 months imprisonment on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was released on March 2011.

The arrest and trial of Abu Rahmah has been widely condemned by the international community, most notably by Britain and EU foreign minister, Catherin Ashton. Harsh criticism of the arrest has also been offered by leading human rights organizations in Israel and around the world, among them B'tselem, ACRI, as well as Human Rights Watch, which declared Abu Rahmah's trial unfair, and Amnesty International, which declared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.

Personal Background
Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children - Wa’ed (14), Ahed (10), Mohammed (8) and Salam (5).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he was never convicted of any offense. Tamimi spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El - an allegation of which he was cleared of entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days. As a result of the wounds caused by torture, Tamimi was partially paralyzed for several months after his release from the hospital.

At the opening of his trial on June 5th, Tamimi pleaded “not guilty” to all charges against him, but proudly owned up to organizing protest in the village. In a defiant speech before the court he said, "I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people." Tamimi also challenged the legitimacy of the very system which trys him, saying that "Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws [...] that are enacted by authorities which I haven't elected and do not represent me." (See here for Tamimi's full statement).

The indictment against Tamimi is based on questionable and coerced confessions of youth from the village. He is charged with' incitement', 'organizing and participating in unauthorized processions',' solicitation to stone-throwing', 'failure to attend legal summons', and a scandalous charge of 'disruption of legal proceedings', for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act during police interrogation in the event that they are arrested.

The transcript of Tamimi's police interrogation further demonstrates the police and Military Prosecution's political motivation and disregard for suspects' rights. During his questioning, Tamimi was accused by his interrogator of "consulting lawyers and foreigners to prepare for his interrogation", an act that is clearly protected under the right to seek legal counsel.

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village's popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa'ed, 14, was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed, 8, was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder. Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi's house was one of them, despite the fact that part of the house was built in 1965 and the rest in 2005.