15 years in prison for a crime that never happened

PNN/ Salfit/

The five Palestinian boys, Ali Shamlawi, Ali Shamlawi, Mohammed Kleib, Mohammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf, and Tamer Souf, aged 16-17, are charged with 20 counts of attempted murder. After have been kept in prison for almost 3 years they are now being sentenced for a crime that they claim never happened. On Thursday, the 28 January 2016 they were officially sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and a plea deal of NIS 30.000 ($7,750).

The five boys, also known as the Hares boys after their home village in the West Bank, are accused for throwing stones on a highway that connects Israeli settlements in the central West Bank to Tel Aviv. As a settler crashed her car into a truck close to Hares the same day, causing significant injury to her three young daughters, she claimed that she crashed due to Palestinians throwing stones. The 4-year-old Adelle Biton died 2 years later of Pneumonia which is believed to be connected to the damage she sustained in the accident . But her death meant that the boys’ charge was raised to murder.

There were no eyewitnesses to the accident and for three years the five boys insisted on their innocence and claim that the Israeli accusations are based on confessions extracted by torture. After they were arrested, all the boys had signed confessions, which they immediately recanted, saying they had been extracted by torture and threads. According to a press release by the Hares boys blog campaign, Ali Shamlawi told the judge that he had been beaten, choked and forced to sign a confession in Hebrew with one hand cuffed to the chair. His mother told Al Jazeera English that her son had been kept in solitary confinement for two weeks, denied sleep and was psychologically pressured to confess with threats against his mother and sister.

In September Netanyahu declared a “war on stone throwing,” establishing a minimum prison sentence for adults who throw stones as well as allowing Israeli forces to use sniper fire against stone throwers in circumstances that pose mortal danger.

Spokesperson for Defense for Children International-Palestine, Bashar Jamal told the Electronic Intifada that  “The Hares boys case reflects the shortcomings of the Israeli military system that includes prolonged legal proceedings and a harsh interrogation process,” he added that “ nearly 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system each year”.

Bashar Jamal also noted to the Electronic Intifada: “The comparison between the application of justice in the Hares boys case and the Dawabsha family is critical. The perpetrators of the Dawabsha family are still free,”

Last summer, a firebomb was thrown into the Dawabsha family home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, killing a 18-month-old baby and his parents.

In 2013, Defense for Children International–Palestine reported that three quarters of Palestinian child detainees endured some kind of physical violence during their arrest, transfer or interrogation. Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group has also found that Palestinian children are systematically subjected to torture and violence, including threats of rape against them or family members, by Israeli interrogators, in order to force them to confess to stone throwing.

Now several social media spaces are calling out for supporting the crimes against the Hares boys. A blog named “Haresboys” is seeking support nationally and internationally for help and especially human rights organizations, even though the sentences have been made. “If we stop demanding justice, five young men are to spend the next 15 years of their lives in prison. For them and other prisoners, their families,  communities and their people, we must continue to struggle”.

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