Witness, IDF prosecutor spar at trial of activist
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
Trial of well-known human rights activist Ayman Nasser, accused of involvement with the PFLP continues.
The trial of well-known human rights activist Ayman Nasser, accused of
involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist
group, continued on Monday in the IDF Judea Court at Camp Ofer, with an all-out
war between the prosecutor and Asraf Haleel Mamood Abu- Aram, one of the
prosecution’s Palestinian witnesses.
The source of the tension was
Abu-Aram’s allegations that illegal police pressure had forced him into making
incriminating statements about Nasser, while the prosecution tried to show that
Abu-Aram’s claim that he did not even know Nasser was not
Abu-Aram said that he lied to police, but was telling the truth
Because of the political impact of the case – a human rights
activist being accused of terrorism – it has drawn the attention of both the
Israeli and international media.
Nasser, a human rights activist for
Palestinian prisoners’ rights at an organization called Addameer that was
recently raided – although no charges have as yet been filed against it – claims
that he has committed no crimes.
The IDF indictment against him
recognizes that he works as a human rights activist, but alleges that he doubles
as a PFLP member, and charges him with five counts of being present at PFLP
events or actively recruiting for the terrorist organization.
Addameer have said that the IDF is persecuting him for political reasons and
trying to intimidate human rights organizations that publicly criticize the IDF
and fight for prisoner rights.
The indictment does not accuse Nasser of
involvement in actual terror operations, and focuses on his alleged presence at
PFLP gatherings, including one specific incident in which he is accused of
distributing recruiting materials and paying someone NIS 200 for transportation
costs to go recruit new PFLP members.
Nasser has recognized that he was
present at most of the events mentioned, but that he was there in his capacity
as an activist for prisoner rights, that the events were widely attended by
Palestinians from the general public, and that whether PFLP agents were there or
not, they would have been a small number of the attendees and would have had
nothing to do with them.
Monday’s drama even topped the hearing of the
trial’s first witness Mahmoud Zeitoun, held on December 31.
to police, Abu- Aram as well as Zeitoun, both in detention for alleged crimes,
accused a man named Ayman Karaja of being present and involved in various PFLP
In one instance, they claimed that Karaja helped organize an
event commemorating deceased PFLP secretary-general Abu Ali
After piecing together different statements of Abu-Aram and
Zeitoun, including the latter’s identifying a photograph of Ayman Nasser as the
Ayman Karaja that he and Abu-Aram had discussed, the prosecution offered
Abu-Aram as a key witness for placing Nasser at the PFLP events.
Abu-Aram entered the courtroom, he fought back hard against the allegations
against him and Nasser.
From the onset, Abu-Aram claimed that he had been
put under “intense emotional pressure” to give his interrogators the answers
that they wanted to hear.
Abu-Aram claimed he was told he would not be
allowed to consult with an attorney.
According to the law, there are
points early in an interrogation where persons accused of certain crimes, like
membership in terrorist groups, can be questioned without an attorney, although
interrogators are bound to advise the suspect of his right to an attorney as
soon as that preliminary time period expires.
The prosecution attempted
to show that interrogators had not mistreated Abu-Aram and tried to get him to
admit that they had given him food, coffee and cigars and permitted him to
Yet, even as Abu-Aram admitted to receiving certain items, he
complained that there were periods where he had been denied some of these
Trying to shake Abu-Aram, the prosecutor asked him to list the
names of the “twenty” interrogators he said had “yelled at him” and made him
feel “under pressure.” Abu- Aram was able to name seven names, which is an
unusually high number even for witnesses who claim being mistreated during
Also, at every turn when the prosecutor asked for a yes or
no answer, Abu-Aram demurred, returning to a longer description of his narrative
The prosecutor eventually convinced the court to declare Abu
Aram a hostile witness, just as it had done with Zeitoun.
prosecution’s witness is declared hostile, the prosecutor can question the
witness aggressively and with leading questions just as if they were
cross-examining a witness for the defense.
As the prosecutor questioned
Abu-Aram, her voice rose and she and Nasser’s defense attorney Mahmoud Hassan
had several emotional exchanges over whether the witness was evading answering
questions or whether the prosecutor was not letting the witness give his
As with Zeitoun, the video footage of the interrogation may be
crucial for the judge determining whether to believe the witnesses’ disavowals
of their police statements incriminating Nasser.