July 26, 2013
Five Palestinian boys, aged 16-17, are facing 25 years to life in prison for alleged stone throwing. The boys were each charged with 25 counts of attempted murder after being accused of causing an accident in which a settler driven car crashed into parked truck near Salfit, occupied West Bank.
On Thursday evening March 14th, a car driven by Adva Biton, resident of illegal settlement of Yakir, crashed into the back of a parked truck on Road 5 in Salfit governorate, occupied Palestinian territories. The driver and her 3 daughters were injured in the accident, one of the children – seriously. Adva Biton claimed that the crash was caused by Palestinian kids throwing rocks at her car. A truck driver initially testified that he stopped because of flat a tire, later he changed his testimony stating that he allegedly saw stones laying by the road. There were no other witnesses of the accident that day.
19 minors from the villages of Hares and Kifl Hares were arrested as a result of the car crash. None of the kids had any previous convictions or problems over stone throwing. Some of the children were kept in solitary confinement for up to two weeks and experienced abuse and mis-treatment during detention.
Most of the boys were released after initial interrogations. Ali Shamlawi, Mohammed Kleib, Mohammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf and Tamer Souf, all of them in between 16-17 years old, are still being detained and held in the Israeli adult prison in Megido. These are the Hares Boys.
The Hares Boys are charged with 25 counts of attempted murder each and face 25 years to life in prison. Each count of attempted murder comes from every stone allegedly thrown at cars driving along Road 5. The case rests on one boy’s confession, retrieved during a questionable interrogation when neither the boys lawyer or parents were allowed to be present. Originally no witnesses were present at the scene of the accident. However 61 witnesses from surrounding settlements came forward only after the case got attention from the media, some of them claiming that they saw kids throwing stones and damaging some of their cars.
Ali’s mother pleads for international attention
The mother of Ali Shamlawi has vivid memories of the last night she saw her son. 15 to 20 soldiers stormed the house at around 3am, their faces concealed by a black ski masks. None of them would give any reason for the night incursion. For the Shamlawi family, what had happened three days before was just a car accident; they could not imagine that the event had been defined by the Israeli media as a "terrorist attack", and their 16-years-old son accused of being one of the "terrorists" responsible for it. Ali’s mother insists her child is innocent: "When the car crashed into the truck, the boys were already in the village. They were coming home from their trip to the mountain, where they went to eat green almonds. When they heard the crash, they were in front of the school, so they couldn’t have been throwing stones".
The hardest memory is the sentence pronounced by a soldier before Ali was handcuffed and brought to an unspecified destination: "Kiss goodbye to your mother, because you might not see her again". Ali’s mother sobs as she repeats these words, and then adds: "At first I thought he said this just to scare us, but now I see that he really meant that". If the prosecution succeeds in sentencing the boys to 25 years of prison, Ali might see his family again until he is 41 years old.
While the boy was being pushed out of the house, Ali’s father approached an intelligence agent, "I asked him to tell the soldiers not to hit my son on the shoulder. He just had an operation and it hurts really bad. When we managed to visit Ali in jail, after two months from his detention, he told us that they always hit him there on purpose".
While in jail Ali has been brutally beaten up on a daily basis and threatened that if he does not admit being guilty, his mother and sister will be brought to the prison and humiliated by stripping off their clothes. For the first 16 days of detention, Ali was placed in an isolation cell, with no food, water or access to the toilet for 14 hours.
Ali’s mother denounces a system that forces children to sign a declaration of culpability: "He is a 16 years-old child, how much do you think he could resist under this pressure before confessing?" Since she is not able to bring her son home, her main concern is that his story does not go unheard, but brings new understanding to the suffering of the Palestinians: "I want all the people to come to the court and see what democracy in Israel really is."
Implications of the Hares Boys’ case
Head of the right wing Yisrael Beitenu party Avigdor Lieberman voiced his hope that stone-throwers would be treated the same as individuals firing live ammunition and military rules of engagement would be updated accordingly. This case could set a dangerous precedent if five Palestinian boys are convicted despite the lack of evidence to support the accusations. This legal precedent would allow Israeli military courts, in which Palestinians are tried, to convict Palestinian kids, as young as 12 years old, for attempted murder in cases of stone throwing. Read more on detention of Palestinian in preceding article on the Palestine monitor.
Extensive information on the Hares Boys case and ways you can get involved in helping them can be found on dedicated website for the Hares Boys.