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Testimony: Border Police assault father and sons cleaning a road in Huwara, March '09

Update: On 12 August 2010 the MPIU informed B'Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed for lack of evidence.

Mahmoud 'Odeh, contractor

Mahmoud 'Odeh

I work with my father contracting out to do jobs. Yesterday [4 March], around two or three in the  afternoon, I was on the main road of  Huwara, which connects Nablus and Ramallah. We were doing work for the Huwara Municipality, clearing the road of stones and dirt. I had been working with my father, Ghassan, 55, and my brother Muhammad, 20, from 9:30 in the morning.

A Border Police jeep suddenly pulled up alongside my brother and father. At the time, I was driving a Bagger [bulldozer] and was about twenty meters from them. A truck with stones and dirt we had cleared from the road was parked on the side of the road. The policemen in the jeep spoke with my father. I saw that a policeman shouted from inside the jeep, but  I couldn't hear what he said. He slapped my father. I got very upset. I didn't understand how he could hit a grown-up man who hadn't done anything.

I got out of the Bagger and went over to the jeep.  The policemen had already gotten out when I reached it. I said to one of them, in Hebrew, “This man is you father's age. How can you hit him?” He told me to shut up, and another policeman shouted at us, in Arabic, “It is forbidden to work here!” My father asked me and Muhammad to go home, because, he said, the policeman wanted to make trouble. Muhammad and I drove home in our car.

About fifty minutes later, my father called and asked us to come back. He said another police jeep had arrived and they wanted to resolve the problem. We went back, and there was another Border Police jeep and eight officers had arrived. One of them - the officer in command , I think - was speaking, in Arabic, with my father. The officer's Arabic was very good. He told me and Muhammad to give him our identity cards. We handed them to him and he gave them to the policeman who had driven the first jeep. Then the officer asked us what happened, and I told him. We spoke for more than half an hour, and I thought he understood what had happened.

I had the feeling that the officer and the other policemen wanted to go. My father asked the officer to give us back our identity cards. The officer spoke, in Hebrew, with the driver of the first jeep, who shouted and seemed very angry. He took off his helmet and hit the truck with it. He went into a rage, hitting the truck's toolbox with his helmet. The officer and my father tried to get him away from the truck. When Muhammad asked the policeman not to damage the truck, the policeman hit him with the helmet. Two other policeman came over and beat Muhammad.

Without thinking what I was doing, I went over to the policemen to get them away from Muhammad. Three policemen grabbed me and hit and kicked me. One of them hit me with a wooden club, knocking me unconscious. I woke up when a policeman threw water onto my face. I lay there on the ground and the policemen continued to beat me. Vehicles stopped alongside us and people came over. I tried to get away from the policemen. I felt I was going to die, and I couldn't withstand the blows any longer. I was very dizzy and wanted to vomit. I didn't see which of the policemen beat me. I didn't see what happened to Muhammad.

Passersby intervened and more jeeps arrived. I managed to get away from the policemen a bit and stood on the side of the road. My clothes were strained with blood and my head was wounded. I felt I was about to fall, so I tried to go into a car that was parked there, to sit down a bit. Just then, the policemen dragged me and beat me again. They hit me in the back and head, and I fainted.

I woke up in Rafidiyah Hospital. X-rays showed, thank God, that nothing was broken, and that I had only suffered scrapes and bruises. Muhammad, too, was brought to the hospital. He had bruises all over his body.

Mahmoud Ghassan Mahmoud 'Odeh, 29, married with four children, is a contractor and a resident of Huwara in Nablus District. His testimony was given to Salma a-Deba'i at Rafidiyah Hospital, in Nablus, on 5 March 2009.