When Mohammed Mansour arrived at the courthouse today a half an hour before his scheduled court appointment, the trial was already over.
Today was supposed to be the final hearing, the 14th in two years of protracted legal struggle. Having refused repeated deals from the prosecution (see previous post), today Mohammed expected either that the charges would be dropped unconditionally, or that he would be handcuffed and taken to jail.
Instead, Mohammed and his two international friends learned when they arrived at the bustling courthouse that the trial was postponed — yet again. Relief at another month of freedom mingled with frustration that the episode remains unfinished. Perhaps the judge hopes that more time will convince Mohammed to accept the prosecution’s latest offer.
The freezing rain had transformed to sunshine when the activists left the courthouse. But in Palestine, life is never that easy. Because Mohammed does not have a permit that allows him to enter Jerusalem, he had to sneak through the mountains in order to appear at his trial. He had barely left the Jerusalem bus station on the way home to his village near Ramallah when soldiers stopped his bus and demanded I.D.s. Although Mohammed showed them the papers proving he had to be in Jerusalem for his trial today, they pulled him off the bus, and the two international activists followed.
The three waited around for perhaps an hour (the freezing rain had reappeared) while the soldiers called in Mohammed’s I.D. number and conferred with their superiors over the radio. Several more soldiers arrived in a green jeep, and one of the internationals asked, “What’s the problem? He was required to be in Jerusalem for his trial, and now he’s going home.” The officer replied, “There is no problem. Only, he is wanted.” He could not say what Mohammed was wanted for.
In the end, Mohammed was allowed to continue back to his home, but is required to go meet with Israeli intelligence in two different locations in the next week. Often during these interviews, The intelligence officer offers bribes of ,money and permission to travel and work inside Israel, in exchange for information. If Mohammad doesn’t go to the interview, the military are likely to show up to his home and may arrest a family member in his stead. If he goes and doesn’t cooperate, they will call him back again and again, keep him on their wanted list and harassing him at will. But for Mohammed and many Palestinians like him, resistance is the only option.
On March 21st, he will return to Jerusalem for the next chapter in his ongoing struggle, and go through it all again.