A year ago on January 23, 14-year-old Islam Dar Ayoub Tamimi was arrested at gunpoint after the Israeli army surrounded his house at around 1:30am. A few days before, on January 17, Islam’s house was one of many in the village of Nabi Saleh that were raided by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), where the soldiers then proceeded to take pictures of all males over the age of 12.
A month later, Islam’s younger brother eleven year old Kareem was chased down and hauled off by the Israeli police where he was illegally interrogated for two hours before getting released.
During his arrest, Islam was taken out of bed at gunpoint and violently taken to a military jeep, handcuffed and blindfolded. His brother Omar (who remains in detention after getting arrested during the West Bank car protest on Israeli only roads earlier this month) was beaten up as he tried to help Islam.
According to an email interview with Israeli anti-occupation activist Jonathan Pollak:
Islam was then taken to a military base in the nearby Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, where he was kept outside in the cold, still blindfolded and handcuffed, and was not allowed any sleep. He was then taken to a police station in the Mishor Edomim settlement for questioning, where he arrived at around 8:00 in the morning.
He was asked to sign a document in Hebrew, but it was a (flawed) summery of his interrogation. This happened after he was finally allowed to see his lawyer, and he refused to sign it. The video shows that the Hebrew document was read to him in Arabic before he was asked to sign it.
After his interrogation he was taken to Ofer, and then, a few days after to Rimonim prison (which is part of Hasharon prison complex), which is a detention center for minors. To the best of my knowledge, he was imprisoned together with other Palestinians, not Israel criminal prisoners.
The judge didn’t admit Islam was under psychological pressure and felt threatened per se, but rather wrote that indeed his rights were violated (which in some cases, would have rendered his testimony inadmissible) but that in this specific case, from looking at the tape, it seems he was treated well during the interrogation and spoke of his own free will. [In other words] she believes that the impact of the violations on him, in this specific case, was not severe enough.
Islam was released on 4 April 2011, after 71 days in detention, but remained under full house arrest. The conditions of his house arrest were changed at the beginning of the school year (in September) so that he is allowed to go to school. He still remains under partial house arrest.
The military judge, Major Sharon Livnin, ruled that Islam’s confession despite his unlawful interrogation was legitimate enough to be used as evidence in the trial of Bassem Tamimi:
“In my opinion, the infringement on the defendant’s rights in this concrete case, did not amount to a violation of his right in a way that will sufficiently endanger his right to a fair trial […].”
The Popular Struggle website outlies some of the ways Islam’s rights were violated:
- The boy was arrested at gunpoint in the dead of night, during a violent military raid on his house.
- Despite being a minor, he was denied sleep in the period between his arrest and questioning, which began the following morning and lasted over 5 hours.
- Despite being told he would be allowed to see a lawyer, he was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.
- He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning. The testimony of one of his interrogators before the court suggests that he believes Palestinian minors do not enjoy this right.
- He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he “must tell of everything that happened.”
- Only one of four interrogators who participated in the questioning was a qualified youth interrogator.
At the beginning of a video documenting Islam’s interrogation in the presence of two interrogators (uploaded by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee’s youtube channel), the boy asks if he will be allowed to go home soon. One of the interrogators barks at him, “Wait, we’re doing an interrogation here.” The one at the computer types in “student” as the other affirms that Islam is a reporter’s assistant. At 43 seconds, Islam asks again if he’s going to go home that night, explaining that he has an exam the next day.
At 1:15, one of the interrogators accuses Islam that he along with other youth were throwing stones at Israeli army jeeps and participating in protests, which are “against the law” and (at 2:30) a “breach of public security.” The same interrogator (at 2:58) then proceeds to tell Islam that he has a right to see a lawyer, but that if he chooses not to answer any questions, that can be further used as solidified evidence against him in court. At 3:29 the interrogator says, “You’re a little boy. Inshallah [God willing] we’ll finish with the interrogation soon, but we want you to tell us all the right things. Understand? We’ll show you pictures of people throwing rocks, including you.”
Almost half an hour later, a third interrogator joins the room. Islam is in the middle of explaining an injury to his leg sustained during one of the protests.
At 4:40 Islam gives the name and age of one of the youths in the village. The third interrogator punches his hand into his fist. The video goes to another interval, where one of the interrogators cuts off Islam, who is in the middle of describing how the youth hide in houses when the army surrounds them, by calling them as mice. The third interrogator says in his rolling accent, “Like Tom and Jerry.” He then suddenly shouts, “Those poor things! Those unfortunates!”
At 5:59, the same interrogator snaps at Islam not to breathe in his face. Islam replies that he hasn’t slept. At 6:39 the interrogator asks Islam what the job of the first “brigade” was, before snickering that he was going to catch the flu from Islam.
At 7:05, another interrogator enters the room. At 7:30 Islam announces he wants to go home because of his school exams.
At 7:50 one of the interrogators asks Islam how many people were in each brigade.
At 8:28 Islam asks if the latest interrogator is the one responsible for taking him home.
At 9:18, after almost three hours (2 hours and 42 minutes to be exact) of interrogation, the psychological stress becomes all too evident as Islam breaks down into tears. When asked why he’s crying, Islam replies that he’s afraid he’s going to fail his school year. He elaborates, “If I fail then the school won’t let me come back to repeat the year.”
At 11:08 The interrogator asks, “What did he tell them?” Islam replies, his voice wobbling, “He told us to wait at the intersection and to take the cardboards to the shrine. We’d take them to Uncle Naji and Uncle Bassem without knowing what was in them. Motasem wanted to know what was in them so once he opened one and found gas masks.”
At 11:39, a new addition is in the room: the only qualified female youth interrogator.
At 12:43, the interrogator that rolls his R’s slaps Islam’s shoulders, saying “You’re happy that the officers got hit by stones, right?”
At 13:35 the interrogators order Islam to raise his head and to sit up straight, telling him that it will all be over soon. Islam’s been in interrogation for more than four hours at this point.
At 13:55 Islam asks when the interrogation will be over. One of the interrogators replies, “In half an hour. We have to first check if what you said is all true, and then we’ll see what will happen. I don’t want to see you here again.”
At 14:35 the interrogator flicks Islam’s arms, which are resting his head, and tells him to raise his head up. “When the interrogator is in the room, raise your head up. Yell at him. And if possible, you beat him up!”
The other interrogator shows Islam a photograph and asks him who the person in it is.
After more than five hours of interrogation, Islam yawns and asks for the time. It’s 2:30 pm, answers the interrogator. Islam turns to the stoic female interrogator and tells her he hasn’t slept since yesterday.
At 15:12, Islam is left alone with the female interrogator. He asks if it’s over yet. She replies, “in a little bit.” Islam then asks her if she’s Israeli or an Arab. She answers, “What do you think? I speak Arabic. I’m an Arab.”
“What are you doing here?”
“You work as what?”
At 16:52, Islam yawns, “Please God, take me home. I am so tired.”
Islam’s unlawful interrogation was used to incriminate and arrest Bassem and Naji Tamimi, who are actively involved in Nabi Saleh’s weekly popular resistance protests, a couple of months later in March. Nabi Saleh began its protest back in December 2009, after settlers from the illegal settlement of Halamish built upon the village’s land further expropriated the village’s main water supply and spring, Al-Kaws. Naji agreed to a plea bargain, and was subsequently sentenced to a year in prison plus a 20,000 shekel fine. Bassem refused to do the same, and has still not been sentenced, despite spending ten months behind bars since his arrest. When Islam was put on the stand in court in November 2011, he admitted that he had given false testimony due to the immense pressure he was under before and during his interrogation.
Back in late November last year, I sat with Bassem’s wife, Nariman Tamimi, who talked about her husband’s trial, the baseless charges against him, why Naji accepted the deal and Bassem didn’t, and the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh in the video below. She rejects labeling her husband or Naji as “leaders of the protests”, maintaining that this was the characterization given to them by the Israeli authorities in order to accuse them of the charges, as any child participating in the protests is capable of leading. She contents that she doesn’t “recognize the occupier’s right to exist to recognize the legitimacy of their courts” and that she attends the trials because she wants to see her husband who “is my best friend and partner.” When asked about Bassem’s morale, Nariman replies, “He’s always been so strong and optimistic. His spirits are so high and make you stronger, instead of the opposite.”
Thanks to Jan Beddegenoodts for the video