Friday, November 5, 2010
Five months house arrest for 13-year old
Karam and his father. (Picture en text Charlotte Silver)
On 28 September, the Ofer Military Court, located outside Ramallah, sentenced Karam Daana to five months house arrest at his uncle’s home and fined the family 2,000 NIS during his pre-trail hearing. During this time, Karam may not attend school or leave the parameters of this home.
The charge was throwing rocks at a settler. Children are routinely picked up on similar charges: The Defence for Children International organisation estimates that 700 children are imprisoned every year, 300 of which are prosecuted in a military court. Typical sentences are approximately three months in prison, of which one month is served during pre-trial detention.
Yet, this time the prosecutors sought a uniquely harsh punishment of five months confinement without school. The loss of this time in school will prevent Karam from moving onto the eighth grade with his peers; he will need to make up the seventh grade. A DCI spokesperson commented on the sentence, “It’s a very draconian punishment for someone who maintains his innocence and he has not yet had a trial. There are lots of other measures they could take without preventing him from going to school. Why deprive a 13-year-old from going to school?”
After leaving the Offer court, Karam told his uncle, Basan Daana, “I only need this: I want to see my friends, to play with my friends, to go to school, to carry my bag, to go outside, to feel free, to move, to play.” Confounded, Basan repeats, “He doesn’t have the right to play.”
Khalid describes Karam’s daily agony under house arrest, “Every morning he looks out the window and sees all of his friends, all of his cousins, they are going to the school and sometimes he wants to run away to go with them.”
There are constant surveillance cameras monitoring the activities of Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron, if Karam is caught violating his sentence, his family will be charged 20,000 NIS.
The punishment did not stop at 2,000 NIS and house arrest for Karam. A few days after Karam returned from Ofer, the Israeli soldiers revoked Khalid’s permit to work in Israel while he was crossing a checkpoint in Hebron. “Now he doesn’t have work. Just because he’s the father.” A neighbour explained.
Karam lives in the Old City of Hebron, 100 metres from the settlement of Kiryat Arba. On September 22, he was arrested after a settler accused him of throwing rocks at her car, causing her to crash. When the police picked Karam up, they blindfolded him as they took him to Ja’bara police station in Hebron. Once there, the police interrogated Karam, shouting at him and asking “Why do you throw rocks.” Karam told them that he did not throw rocks. After reviewing the surveillance cameras, the Israeli soldiers saw that Karam was nowhere near the accident and released him that same day.
However, the next day during Karam’s sister’s wedding party, the Israeli soldiers returned to his home and took Karam back to Ja’bara police station, where they further interrogated him until 1:00 am. “They tied his hands, covered his eyes, and his legs also. They were shouting in his face,” said Basan.
Karam broke his silence, and answered with a raspy voice, “They only asked who throws stones, who do you know that throws stones, do you know who throws stones.”
In the middle of the night, the police transferred the boy to Ofer prison, where he remained for the week.
A neighbour of Karam explained, “The Israelis want to do this: they want to make the kids scared, not to go to these streets, not to use it. They don’t want anyone to come here, to stay here. They want to make people leave.”
The roads leading to Karam’s and many other Palestinian homes in the Old City are forbidden to non-settler cars. In order to get to Karam’s family’s house, one must park outside the village and walk along roads that settlers drive on freely.
Karam is still awaiting trial, at which point the military court will hear from prosecuting and defence attorneys. It has become customary for children to plead guilty regardless of their culpability, as it ensures a shorter detention period. However, Karam will plead innocent.