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From the field

Border Policeman beats Ra'id Fatafteh at the 'Abd checkpoint, in Hebron, injuring him in the head, May 2006

Ra'id Fatafteh, engineer

Ra'id Fatafteh

I live in Tarkumiya, which is situated west of Hebron. I am a structural engineer for a construction company that renovates buildings and streets in Hebron 's Old City . The work is done under the supervision of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. I have worked in the area for three years. I go from Tarkumiya to the Old City every day, passing a few military checkpoints on the way. I never had problems with soldiers or Border Police at the checkpoints.

Yesterday [Tuesday, 9 May], at around 4:15 P.M., I finished work and was on my way home. When I got to the Border Police's 'Abd checkpoint, which is near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the policemen told me to stop and asked for my identity card. He ordered me to wait by a low plastic fence, which was about a meter high. The policeman was thin, medium height, light-complexioned, and had a slight beard. He looked to be in his twenties. After about twenty minutes passed, I went over to the policeman and asked him if he could give me back my identity card. He told me to wait and move back, and then walk right and left. I felt he was trying to humiliate me. Despite this, I did what he said. Suddenly, he came over to me, grabbed my shirt and dragged me over to the plastic fence. He bent me over it, so that my chest was touching it and my head facing the ground. I didn't understand why he was doing that. I stayed calm and did not respond, though I was angry and felt humiliated.

When the policeman left me, I asked him, in Arabic, why he had done that. He began to swear at me, in Hebrew; I didn't understand what he said. He jumped over the fence, put my hands behind my back, pushed me, and the right side of my head hit the fence, injuring me. That hurt a lot, and I put my hand on my head. I saw that I was bleeding badly. The policeman appeared frightened and confused. He brought my identity card and ordered me to go home. I said that I was going to the police to file a complaint.

There was another policeman at the site. He was tall, thin, and dark-skinned. He was apparently Druze, because he spoke Arabic very well. Some of the time he translated what I said to the other policeman. I began to walk toward the police station of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which was about fifty meters away, but the second policeman did not let me go there.

I decided to go to the police station by another route, and I got there. A policeman was standing at the gate and I told him what happened. He told me that I had to go to the police station in Kiryat Arba to file a complaint. I said that I wanted to speak with the Border Police commander there. After about ten minutes passed, a Druze officer from the Border Police appeared. His name was Mir'ab. He was short, light-skinned, and looked to be in his forties. Also at the entrance to the station were people from TIPH. One of them took a picture of me. I was still bleeding from the wound.

Mir'ab took me to the 'Abd checkpoint. People from TIPH also went with us. I told him what happened and he told me to point out the policeman who had assaulted me. I pointed him out, and the commander told me to stand at the checkpoint. He talked with the two policemen. I felt that he understood me. He spoke with the policeman aggressively, and the two policemen were confused. This went on for about twenty minutes, and then I told the commander that there were eyewitnesses. The eyewitnesses - 'Abd a-Rauf al-Muhtasab and his brother Abu Shadi - were still there. The commander listened to them and did not write anything down, not what they said or what the policemen said. After that, I told him that I wanted to file a complaint. He asked me if I insisted, and I said that I did. He said, "You are being detained, and a jeep will come to take you to the police station in Kiryat Arba." I realized that his position had changed. Later, he made a call from his cell phone, apparently to summon a jeep to come and take me from the checkpoint.

About a half an hour later, a police jeep arrived and took me and the two policemen who were at the checkpoint. When I got to the stationhouse, I saw a number of Border Police officers in the yard. The teased me and threatened me that I would go to jail because I had assaulted policemen and swore at them. I told them that I did not do that. While standing in the yard, the two policemen from the checkpoint came over and told me their versions, so as to influence me. The one who beat me spoke and the Druze policeman translated what he said. The policeman who beat me said, "We tried to grab you and you were injured when you did not obey us." They said that I had slammed my head against the fence.

The interrogator took the testimonies of the two policemen, and then I went into the interrogation room. I told the interrogator what happened in great detail. At the end, another interrogator came in. He told me that they would detain me, or that I could pay a 2,500 Shekel bond. I was in shock. I told him that I was the victim and not the accused. He said that there was no third option - it was either detention or bond. He gave me a date to appear in court, on 18 July 2006 at Ofer. I called my friend, 'Emad D'ana, who came and paid 800 shekels because that was all he had. I was released at 11:00 at night. From the stationhouse, I called home and my brother, Khaled, came and drove me home. I couldn't go to the hospital because I was at the station until late at night. This morning, I went and received medical treatment and a document from the hospital.

I still don't understand why the commander changed his position, and how I turned from complainant to accused.

Ra'id Mahmoud 'Abd a-Salam Fatafteh, 26, is an engineer and a resident of Tarkumiya, Hebron District. His testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash, at PARC offices, on 10 May 2006.