Tareq Ziad Abu Laban, 21, works for HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, and studies journalism at the Hebrew University. He is a resident of East Jerusalem. His testimony was given to Kareem Jubran at HaMoked’s offices on 6 July 2008.
On Thursday, 19 June 2008, my friend Khalil Ahmad Khalil and I decided to go to Tel Aviv at night to visit Ahmad Barghouti, a friend of ours who works at a hotel there, and hang out on the beach together.
We left Jerusalem around 11:00pm. When we got there, Ahmad was waiting for us outside the hotel. We went to a restaurant for supper and then walked around. About 1:45am, we were on our way back to the hotel to drop Ahmad off and then go back to Jerusalem. Just before we reached the hotel, I noticed a car behind us. I was driving. The driver of the other car blinked his lights, and I saw it was a police car, a GMC with a siren. I pulled over to the curb and stopped. The car stopped next to me, and one of the people in it asked, “Where are you from?” I told him I was from Jerusalem. He told me to turn off the engine. The car pulled up and stopped in front of me and three SWAT-team policemen got out. They were wearing dark-blue shirts and black pants. They came over to my car. One of them, who was short, light-skinned, with short, gelled hair, told me to give him the car registration and insurance and our ID cards. I gave him the documents. We remained in the car, waiting for them to finish checking.
The same policeman gave the ID cards to one of the other policemen, a tall, dark-skinned and heavyset man, who checked them. My ID card had a few cards inside the flap: a credit card, student card, and a card for the university Xerox machines. He threw the cards at me. I asked him in Hebrew, “Why did you throw them?” He replied, “Shut up.”
The three policemen were standing next to the car, dealing with the documents. The license plate of the car was 40-517. Shortly after that, one of them told us to get out of the car. We got out and stood next to their car. While standing there, I heard somebody pass behind me. I turned round to look and saw a young woman pass by. The tall, dark-skinned policeman asked, “If your sister had passed by, would you look at her the same way?” I answered, “What does this have to do with my sister? I would have looked at anybody who passed behind me.” “Shut up before I bust your head,” he said. I didn’t reply.
A few minutes later, he said, “If your sister was wearing a short skirt and passed by here, would you look at her?” “Why are you mentioning my sister?” I asked, and continued, “What would happen if your sister …” He ran at me and pushed me hard. The third policeman, who was tall, light-skinned, and big, also pushed me.
The short policeman told them not to hit me outside. They told me to get into the car. I asked them why, and they said, “You’re under arrest.” I got in the back seat of the car, and the two tall policemen sat on either side of me. The short policeman got in the driver’s seat. They closed the windows and told me to sit on the floor. The car drove off. The tall, dark-skinned policeman cuffed my hands behind my back. They hit me in the head, slapped me very hard, and kicked me all over my body. There was hardly any room, and I couldn’t move at all. One of them hit me on the head with a plastic bottle full of water. My head and body hurt a lot. I had trouble breathing because of the blows and the way I was sitting. I almost choked. While beating me, they swore at me, calling me a “son of a bitch” and “Arab bastard” and saying, “apologize.”
They beat me for a long time. It felt like a whole day went by. I felt frightened, angry, and humiliated, and I was in pain. Then the car stopped. The driver got out, came in through the back door and slapped and kicked me. Then they forced me to lie on the floor of the car and stepped on my chest and stomach. They did that for a few minutes. Then the short policeman returned to the driver’s seat and started driving again. The others continued to beat me. They threatened me, saying they would open a police file against me and ruin my studies and life if I didn’t apologize. I apologized again and again and they continued beating me for another few minutes.
Finally, the car stopped. They took me out and removed the cuffs. We were back where it all started. Khalil and Ahmad were still there. The policemen told us to get out of there immediately, and said they would beat the crap out of us if they saw us in the area again.
Ahmad went back to the hotel. Khalil drove because I felt terrible. We considered going to a hospital in Tel Aviv, but we didn’t know our way around, so we decided to return to Jerusalem. On the way, I was dizzy and in lots of pain.
We drove to Hadassah Hospital, Har Hatzofim, where I was examined and X-rayed. At the hospital, I saw for the first time the marks and swelling all over my body, face, and head that were caused by the beating. I remained under observation in the hospital for 16 hours, and then was discharged. I couldn’t go to work or university, and remained in bed for a week, during which assignments at work and at school accumulated.
Tomorrow, I’ll go the Department for the Investigation of Police, in the Ministry of Justice, to file a complaint against the three policemen.