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Testimony: Ahmad Abu Dra', 17, resident of Nablus, arrested on 13 February 2009 and interrogated in the ISA interrogation facility in Petach-Tikva

Ahmad Abu Dra', 17

On Friday, 13 February 2009, around 1:00 P.M., I was at the Huwara checkpoint.  I wanted to go to Ramallah.  I was in the eleventh grade and on my days off from school, I used to work.  Since it was Friday, I thought I'd go to Ramallah to work selling at a stall in the market. 

At the checkpoint, I gave the soldier [my] identity card, and then he said, “Bingo bingo.” He took me to the “jorrah,” the place where they detain people, blindfolded me, and cuffed my hands behind me with plastic cuffs.  He put me in the “jorrah.”  I had to half squat./>

There was one soldier who kept coming over to me and trying to check if I could see from under the blindfold.  He slapped me and every now and then kicked me in the legs with his army boots.  I sat there, squatting, scared, and not seeing anything. 

I was alone in the “jorrah,” and stayed there until about 6 P.M.  I had to squat, I was forbidden to sit in a normal position or to stand.  That was the soldier's order.

After a few hours, the soldiers put me in a jeep and made me lie down on the side. There were lots of soldiers there and they began to hit me.  They all took part.  They kicked me and beat me in the legs, stomach, and head with their hands, every possible part of my body.  They cursed my sister and mother.  I preferred for them to continue hitting me than to curse my mother and sister.

The hardest thing was hearing the rude cursing.  They beat me and laughed.  They spoke in Hebrew.  I felt they were really having fun beating me.  It lasted the whole way./>

At some point the jeep stopped, I don't know where.  They took me out.  One soldier grabbed my shirt near my left shoulder and started to run.  I was wearing two pants – pajamas and jeans on top of them. 

The jeans fell a bit and I couldn't run.  I asked them to let me pick up my pants, but they refused.  The soldier pulled me with force while my pants were down.  I could barely run, but I had no choice.  I barely kept from falling.  After a while, we stopped.  I heard a lot of soldiers around me.  They were all laughing.  One soldier grabbed me and told me to walk.  I did as he said, and suddenly my head hit a wall and I fell on my back. They all laughed.

Then they shouted at me to get up and swore at me because it took me time to get up.  My hands were cuffed and my pants down, so it was hard to move or get up.  The soldiers picked me up and sat me on the ground. I remained like that, at that place outside, until it got dark. 

Then they took me, by foot, to a medical clinic.  Somebody in military uniform was there.  He asked if I had any illnesses and if I had been beaten.  He removed the blindfold and cuffs.  I asked him: “If I say they beat me, will something be done to them?” He replied: “No, I just wanted to know.”  I said: “If that's the case, then no, they didn't beat me.”  I told him I didn't have any illnesses.

Then the soldiers took me to a room and again bound my hands behind me with plastic cuffs.  They lowered the hood of my jacket over my face so I couldn't see.  Maybe they didn't have any cloth material to blindfold me.  Then they took me to the rooms.  I was there with other young men for about half and hour until they came and called me.  There was a jailer from the Nachshon Unit there.  I asked him where we were going, and he said we were going for a walk.  I heard them mention the name “Petach-Tikva.” The jailer from the Nachshon Unit cuffed my hands and legs and took me to a place which I later learned was Petach-Tikva.

In Petach-Tikva, they searched me while I was naked, photographed me, and a doctor examined me.  Then they gave me something to eat.  I was hungry because I hadn't eaten anything since morning.  After I ate, they put me in a cell alone.  I fell asleep.  On Saturday, they didn't interrogate me in the evening.   On Sunday morning, they took me to another cell, Cell No. 1, and a jailer took me to the interrogation room.  In the interrogation room, the jailer sat me down on a chair that was fixed to the floor.  He bound my hands to the chair behind me and removed the blindfold.  In front of me I saw a table, with an interrogator sitting behind it.  He had a computer.  He said his name was “Doron” and asked if I knew where I was. He said I was at the Petach-Tikva interrogations center.  He gave me a paper, which stated my rights, to read.   It said I was entitled to a visit by a lawyer and the Red Cross.  The interrogator had me sign it, but nothing it said was put into practice.

In the interrogation, the interrogator accused me of all kinds of things.  I said that it wasn't true.  He got angry and spoke in Hebrew on the telephone.  Then he turned to me and said I was not allowed to meet with a lawyer.  />

After a few hours, two other interrogators entered the room.  One of them was bald and wore glasses, and I think he was called “Jimmy.”  The other had black hair with streaks of grey.  When the two interrogators entered the room, the bald one kicked me in the legs and shouted at me, “Sit right.”  The other one pressed my jaw and pushed my head back.  He stared mocking a relative of mine who had been arrested and released, and said that she had cried and begged them.  He was trying to annoy me, so I said nothing.  The three interrogators remained in the room.  They looked at me as if at any moment, they would get up and beat me.  From time to time the three of them started to laugh together.  One of them, the short one, came close to my ear and began to mock me, and said that I was disgusting and had dirt in my ear.  They insulted me and laughed non-stop, and stared at me in a threatening and frightening manner.  The two interrogators that had entered left after about half an hour.

After they left, Doron told me that lots of “important people” had sat on this chair and all had talked.  This interrogation lasted for hours.  At noon, Doron said he was going to eat and that a jailer would soon come to take me to eat.  He went to eat, and some time later came back and asked, as if by surprise, “What, you didn't eat?” Some more time passed before a jailer came and took me for a few minutes to eat in a small room next to the interrogation room.

After the meal, the jailer returned me to the interrogation room.  I remained with the interrogator in the same position for another hour, hour and a half, and then they took me to the cell.  The interrogator said we'd continue later.  On the second day, the interrogator sent me to give a statement and for hand and finger prints./>

After the statement, they took me to a cell in which I was alone.  On Wednesday, they said I was finished and was being sent to prison.  They took me to Jalameh, where the jailers took me for a medical exam and search.  They put me in a cell with a young guy who was seventeen years old or more, and whose name was Khaled al-Halabi. 

The cell had a net door.  On the other side was another cell, from which we heard the sound of people talking to us.  We couldn't see them.  They said they were adult prisoners and they wanted to protect the young people, and that they were the ones in charge inside the prison.  They explained it was forbidden for a regular prisoner to speak with the jailers, and that we needed to make contact with the jailers through them.  They said they wanted to check our security matters, to assist us, and that after they knew everything, they would move us to a place where the minors stay.  They passed us food, cigarettes, everything you could imagine. 

I remained in the cell with Khaled for five days, until Sunday.  During this time, I said all kinds of things because the prisoners told me that I had to prove I'm a man and a hero, who was worth helping.  I told about all kinds of things that I had never done.  I wanted to show I was worthwhile and great.  But I lost big time and was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment, most for things that I for no good reason said I had done./>

On Sunday, they said they were moving me to the minors' section and would let me talk with my family.  I was very happy.  I jumped in joy and quickly got dressed.  I went out of the room.  In the corridor, I saw a jailer from the Nachshon Unit, and the penny dropped. I realized that the others were collaborators who wanted to get me talk, and that they had deceived me, because Nachshon Unit jailers move prisoners from one prison to another and not from one section to another.  The jailer from the Nachshon Unit took me back to Petach-Tikva.

When they brought me into the interrogations center in Petach-Tikva, the Nachshon Unit jailer blindfolded me and bound my hands and legs with metal cuffs.  When we walked in the corridor, the jailer pulled me by the handcuffs, I got tangled up with the leg cuffs, and fell, breaking a front tooth, actually a crown I had on the tooth.  I looked for it by feeling around the floor with my hands, and I found it. 

The same day, they took me to Doron for questioning.  During the interrogation, I sat bound on the chair. After the interrogation, I gave a second statement, and then they took me to court.  In court, my detention was extended for thirteen days.  I turned to the judge and said, “I completed the interrogation and now you extend the detention for thirteen days.  This means you are putting me back in a cell all by myself.”  He said that during the thirteen days, they would transfer me to Sallem [military court].

They took me to a solitary cell.  Nobody spoke with me, nobody interrogated me, they just threw me in there by myself until Monday, 9 March.  Then, they indeed transferred me to Sallem, going through Megiddo. The next day, my birthday, my trial took place.  It was also the first time I saw my mother since I was arrested. 

When the judge asked how old I was, I said I had turned seventeen this very day.  It was a special coincidence.  The judge extended my detention for six days, to 15 March.  These six days I spent at Megiddo.  The first two days, I was alone.  After that, other persons who were to appear in court joined me.

On 15 March, a Sunday, an indictment was filed against me and I was taken back to Petach-Tikva and to a cell alone.  I saw they were putting me back into a cell by myself, and I asked to see an interrogator.  They took me to him.  I told him: “You know that I finished [the interrogation], so why do you want to keep me isolated?” He said, “Fine, I'll move you.”  He asked the jailer to take me to Cell 14, which had three other detainees.  I spent thirteen days there, but not alone.  Everyone I met was surprised that I had been in Petach-Tikva for such a long time, even after the indictment was filed against me.

My trial was held on 19 April.  The lawyer made a plea bargain.  I wasn't happy, but I understood that the prosecution made an offer and the judge already agreed, so who was I not to accept it.  The plea bargain called for ten months' imprisonment and a fine of NIS 2000.  I didn't expect such a harsh sentence.  I didn't deserve it.

General information on the detention conditions:

  • The cell was filthy and smelled disgusting. I kept trying to clean it.

    In Cell 14, the toilet always overflowed.  />
  • The worst thing about the cell – everything, the isolation was really hard, the light never went out, the depressing color of the concrete walls.
  • I didn't say a word and didn't use my voice for so long, I thought I was going mute.  It took a long time before I manage to communicate with detainees in faraway rooms.  They suggested that I sing in out loud, rather than sink deep into thought or pass time sleeping.  At first, I shouted and tried to speak with the jailers.  When they didn't answer, I got tired and also became indifferent, and I stopped talking.
  • They didn't let me shower the first week.
  • I wasn't given clothes or the chance to wash clothes. Even after I gave a statement, they didn't let me.
  • The Red Cross didn't come until I had been there two weeks or so, and they only gave me cigarettes.
  • I did not meet with a lawyer at any time, except for a few minutes in court.
  • I asked to speak with my family to tell them I had been arrested, but they let me only after I finished.  My family heard I had been arrested from persons who saw me getting arrested.

Ahmad Ghazi Muhammad Abu Dra', 17, eleventh-grade student, is resident of Balata Refugee Camp, in Nablus. His testimony was give to Attorney Tagrid Shabita, of HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, on 17 May 2009 at Megiddo Prison.