By Saed Bannoura
IMEMC News: After a video documenting the attack surfaced more than a month after the assault took place, the Israeli Military Police decided to investigate a violent attack carried out by Israeli soldiers against a Palestinian youth who was kidnapped near the Ofra settlement, near Ramallah.
The attack, which took place on April 26, was caught on tape by a surveillance camera operated by settlement security guards who distorted the recording and obstructed the investigation.
The Palestinian youth, Mohammad Dar Sa’ad, from the Al-Mazra’a Ash-Sharqiyya village, was kidnapped, and was imprisoned for a month after the army claimed that he hurled stones at them.
On Monday, May 27, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem) filed an urgent appeal to the Israeli military demanding a thorough investigation into the assault.
B’Tselem said that camera operators in Ofra settlement apparently tried to avoid documenting the attack by diverting the camera from the scene, and added that the footage of the violent assault was not sent to the defense attorney, and the Palestinian never saw it.
On Tuesday, the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) informed B’Tselem that it will open an investigation into the assault. The decision was made one day after B’Tselem demanded an investigation into the violent arrest of the Palestinian youth.
After the footage documenting the attack was released, the Israeli Military prosecution withdrew the charges against the Palestinian who was subsequently released after a lesser indictment was brought against him.
“Only thanks to efforts made by his attorney, Nery Ramati of Gaby Lasky and Partners, Law Offices. Once the footage was revealed, the military prosecution withdrew its claim that Dar Sa’ad had thrown stones and he was released”, B’Tselem said.
The center added that different persons clearly saw the footage documenting the assault before it finally made its way to Ramati.
“The camera operators, the security coordinator of the Ofra settlement, and the police investigators and military prosecution, who learned of the violence last week. All were obliged to transfer the footage to the appropriate law enforcement authorities and to demand that the severe violence documented in to be investigated”, B’Tselem said, “their choice to refrain from action raises grave suspicion of disruption of legal proceedings. In addition, soldiers and officers who were at the scene witnessed the violence, but none of them reported it to the law enforcement authorities in real time as required by law and by military orders.
“The footage shows Palestinian youngsters around the entrance to the village of Silwad. At a certain point (00:15), a soldier is seen arresting Dar Sa’ad, forcing him to the ground and beating him”, it added, “Two soldiers join him and begin punching and kicking the prostrate detainee. The camera is then suddenly shifted in a different direction, where nothing relevant is occurring.”
The Center further stated that, after shifting away from the soldiers, the camera later shifts back to the soldiers who were then trying to force the Palestinian into a military jeep (minute 1:30).
It added that later on (minute 5:17), a Border Police officer is seen kicking the youth who was handcuffed and being forced into the jeep. “Then, again, the camera zooms out and the rest of the incident cannot be seen”, B’Tselem reported.
According to B’Tselem report, Dar Sa’ad was kidnapped during clashes that took place between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers in Silwan, he was then moved to the Benyamin Police station where he was interrogated.
He denied any involvement in the clashes, and told the investigators that he came to the area out of curiosity, and that, minutes later, he was kidnapped and beaten by the arresting officers.
The Police did not investigate the claim, and on May 5, the youth was indicted of throwing stones at the army.
Two days later, the Military Judge in Ofer Prison Court, Col. Ami Navon, ordered the Palestinian under arrest until the end of legal proceedings, basing his decision on one testimony by the arresting officer.
On May 9, following an appeal by Ramati, military judge, Col. Zvi Lekach, decided to keep the Palestinian imprisoned, and ordered the army to obtain the footage captured by the security camera.
Another hearing was held on May 20, the prosecution failed to present the footage despite the fact that the Police investigator had seen it.
The military prosecutor said the army was facing difficulties obtaining the video from the settlement, and claimed that the prosecution is trying to talk to the security coordinator there.
On May 22, nearly a month after the Palestinian was arrested and imprisoned; all related parties finally viewed the footage. It then became clear that the Palestinian was telling the truth; the military prosecutor dropped the stone throwing charge, and replaced it with “participating in an unlicensed protest”.
Dar Sa’ad was finally released; the court did not acquit him, but he was let go under a plea bargain convicting him of participating in the claimed “unlicensed procession”.