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From the field

Ramallah: Border Police officers beat Bassem al-Hashalmun near the Samiramis Military Base, September 2003

Bassem al-Hashalmun, victim, age 26, resident of Wadi Abu Qatila neighborhood in area H2 in Hebron.

I work in construction in the area of Samiramis. At around 8:30 A.M. today [Monday, 29 September], my friend Yusuf Shweiki, 23, who works with me, and I were on our way to work. We got into a taxi that had twelve other passengers. The taxi left from the parking lot in Ramallah and headed to Samiramis. When we got to the plant nursery located 300 meters from the Samiramis military base, two Border Police officers standing on the side of the road ordered us to stop. They had apparently set up a mobile checkpoint.

When the driver stopped, one of the officers came over to us and opened the door. He was short, light-skinned, and heavy-set. He wore glasses and was about 25 years old, maybe a bit older. He looked at the passengers and asked in Hebrew for our ID cards. I do not understand Hebrew, but I saw the others showing him their ID cards, and I did the same. I was sitting in the back seat, in the middle. The officer looked at the ID cards but did not take them. Then he told the driver, "Go," in Hebrew.

The driver turned on the engine. The other border policeman, who was standing in front of the taxi, motioned to the driver and told him to stop. He was pale-skinned, tall, thin, and had blond hair and blue eyes. He appeared to be about 27 years old. He came over to the door and looked at the passengers' faces. When he saw me, he asked in Arabic: "You, where are you from?" I told him that I am from Hebron. He said, "Give me your ID card." I gave it to him. The he ordered me to get out of the taxi.

I did as he said and stood behind him. While standing there, I saw a jeep parked about four meters off the side of the road. I knew it was a Border Police jeep because it was dark green. Two Border Police officers were inside, one in the driver's seat and the other next to the driver. I saw 15 or more men standing in a line, about three or four meters from the police officers. Apparently, the police officers had detained them.

The blond officer demanded Yusuf's ID card. He handed it over and got out of the taxi. I told him, "If the soldiers arrest me and not you, go to work." The blond officer asked me in Arabic, "What did you say?" I said that I was talking with my friend. He replied, "No, you are cursing me." He had no reason to think that: I had not said anything about him nor did I make any movement in his direction. I said, "I don't have any reason to curse you." Then, all of a sudden, he kicked me in the groin. I bent over in pain and felt nauseous. He kicked me in the chin and then kicked me again. I raised my head and he kicked me a fourth time, again in the groin. I asked him, "Why are you beating me?" He screamed at me, "You are a asshole son of a bitch." Then he kicked me six more times or so in the legs.

The first Border Police officer came over to us and told me in Arabic to shut up and sit down. I sat down. The blond Border Policeman continued to hit and kick me. He punched me every time that I raised my head, and kicked me in the face and elbow. He beat me non-stop for five minutes or more. There were thorns on the ground and I rolled onto them when he beat me, until I managed to get up. I grabbed his hand and said, "Stop beating me."

The first Border Policeman raised his hand to hit me, but Yusuf grabbed it and told him in Arabic: "Why are you hitting him? He did not do anything." That Border Policeman did not hit me, but the blond officer continued to hit me with his elbow in my midsection, back, and the back of my neck. He also punched me. I was nauseous and dizzy, and fell to the ground. He said; "You are from Hebron, you are from Hebron. What are you doing here?" I replied that I work here. Partly in Hebrew and partly in Arabic, he said, "Shut up. You are doing an Abu Ali [being a wise guy] on me." I said, "I am not Abu 'Ali, I am Abu Bakar." He let me be, went over to the taxi and ordered the driver to leave the area. The driver drove away. Yusuf remained there with me because the Border Policemen still had his ID card.

The two police officers stopped other cars on the road, checked the ID cards of the passengers, and let them all go. I sat down on the ground. After about fifteen minutes had passed, the Border Policemen in the jeep called to me. I went over to the one who was sitting on the passenger side. I don't remember how they looked exactly, but they were dark-skinned and I think they may have been Druse or Beduin. The officer asked me in Arabic: "Are you being a wise guy with the policeman?" I said that I wasn't. "You are doing an Abu 'Ali on me," he said. "No," I responded, "I was in a taxi with other passengers and he made me get out for no reason." "Shut up," he said.

The blond policeman came over to the jeep and asked me, "What are you doing here?" I told him that the police officers in the jeep had called me over and asked me some questions. He kicked me twice in the legs. I fell down onto my side. A few minutes later, the police officers standing on the side of the jeep called out the names of the persons who had been stopped. They read the names from their ID cards. The police officers returned the ID cards to them one after the other and let them go. Yusuf, another fellow, and I were the only Palestinians who remained. The third guy, whom I didn't know, was a student. I heard him say that he was late in getting to the university.

Later on, the blond officer called to me. I got up with a great deal of difficulty and went over to him. He took me behind the jeep and hit me in the abdomen. He pushed me onto the rear door, and my back hit a piece of metal jutting out from the jeep. That hurt a lot. He hit me in the head and kicked me in the legs. I bent over and he ordered me to straighten up. When I did, he struck me and again pushed me into the protruding piece of metal.

At around 9:45 A.M., the blond officer gave me back my ID card and told me in Arabic, "I'll get you. I am here all the time." I took my ID card, turned around, and walked away. He kicked me in the back. I ignored and continued walking. Yusuf got his ID card and walked along with me. We got into a taxi and went to our work site. When we arrived, I took off my clothes to check my injuries. I had open, reddish bruises in the groin area, which is still swollen. My whole body was full of bruises. I couldn't urinate.

Then I went with Yusuf to the a-Sheikh Zayed Hospital, in Ramallah. The doctors in the emergency room examined me and gave me a shot to kill the pain. They also gave me a prescription and told me to come back for further examination if the groin injury worsened. I still feel pain and have difficulty walking.

Bassem Muhammad Subhi 'Atef al-Hashalmun, age 26, is married, and works as a laborer. He is a resident of Wadi Abu Qatila neighborhood in area H2 in Hebron. The testimony was given to Iyad Haddad at a-Sheikh Zayed Hospital on 29 September 2003.