On June 5th, Issa Kandil and Bassem Sheik are still in custody! They where kidnapped by hooded undercover police, who arrested them at gunpoint 1.5 kilometers from the separation wall, where a silent demonstration was taking place. The people of the village of Beit Suriq were demonstrating by sitting silently on the ground in front of the wall.
Issa, 15, and Bassem, 16, have never before been arrested.
They allegedly threw stones towards soliders that were protecting the work on the Wall. The evidence against them is the testimony of the undercover agents, who say they saw them throwing stones, and the testimony of Tlaat Radad, who was arrested with them and released the same day since he suffers from a mental disease. We appealed twice for the release of the boys in the military court of Judea and the military court of appeals for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The first judge ruled to hold Issa and released Bassem on bail of 20,000 NIS. On the mutual appeal, Issa was released and Bassem was held. At the last appeal Issa was held while the chief judge of the Court of Appeals wrote that he found enough evidence to show that the 15 year old boys posed a threat to the security of the territories, and that “although they are young and have never been arrested, their parents should watch over their children as long as the wall is being built” – 21/6/05, Court of Appeals, Lieutenant Colonel Netael Benishu, second to the chief justice of the court of appeals.
All witnesses, Israeli activists and Palestinian villagers, testify there was no stone throwing that day.
One woman saw the arrest from her window. 8 undercover agents dressed like Palestinians came from the other side of the village, near Biddu. Issa and Bassem both said they were approached by the undercover agents and asked if they wanted to throw stones at the soldiers. They answered that they did not, and that it was too far. When I went to see the place of their arrest and the point in the village where they were, it became obvious that they could not have thrown a stone near any of the security forces. However, since the kidnapping and their arrest, there has been a complete silence in the village – the demonstrations have been stopped for fear of future kidnappings.
The military prosecution offered a plea bargain – 5 months in jail for Bassem (because he “threw two rocks”) and 7 months for Issa (because he “threw three rocks” according to the undercover agents). They are children who suffer every day in a military jail based on illegitimate evidence. This arrest and procedure is part of a policy to scare villages that are loosing their land to stop protesting, the kidnappings and provocation by undercover agents have happened several times. It is a ruthless form of action, and illegitimate use of the law.
This goes on because the public eye and the international ears are turned away. Issa and Bassem begin their trial on 13/7/05. They need your help to have their life back, so they can go to school and to their families. There is no reason for them to be in a military jail. Please protest against their unjust detention.