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Israei army tortures teenager over false allegations

During the Israeli army’s latest crackdown on the residents of Azzoun village, undercover police abducted a youth of 16 years for extended interrogation interspersed with beating.

The Azzoun teenager, Mahmoud Radouan, was riding in a friend’s donkey cart on road 55 just outside Izbat at Tabib, en route to the friend’s agricultural land in nearby An Nabi Elyas, when undercover police dressed in Palestinian civilian clothes and driving what appeared to be a Palestinian taxi stopped the two youths, pointing a handgun at them and forcing them to sit on the road beside the guardrail. After 30 minutes, Mahmoud’s friend was released but he was kept, the police reportedly telling him: “we have something on you; we know you make problems.”

The subsequent interrogation, in the police taxi and at the Ariel police station where he was then taken, revolved around accusations of stone-throwing at cars on highway 55 as well as at police and military jeeps when they invade Azzoun. Mahmoud was threatened repeatedly, interrogators telling him he must confess to throwing stones if he wanted to return home or else he’d be taken to court and fined. He was repeatedly threatened that the Israeli police would “make problems” for him and his family. He was further repeatedly cursed, profanities used against him and female family members.

Interrogators pulled Mahmoud’s jacket over his head, winding the sleeves around his neck and tightening them to choke the detained youth. He was then punched repeatedly in the abdomen, side, and head, as well as struck on his leg with the butt of an M16. He was interrogated thus for 2 hours, beaten each time he denied the allegations. Despite the beating which accompanied his interrogation, Mahmoud continued to proclaim his innocence, denying the allegations and declaring that he had not taken part in stone throwing.

The teen’s interrogators continued in their efforts to coerce Mahmoud into confessing by threatening him with solitary confinement and further threatening that he would be bound and hung from the ceiling and further tortured by 4 men.

Eventually, having failed to coerce a confession, Mahmoud was taken to a corridor where he was made to sit, one leg bound to the metal bench, for another approximately 4 hours. Around 10 pm, Mahmoud was led to a military vehicle and dropped off near the village of Harris, far from his own village of Azzoun. After an hour of waiting on the road near Harris, locals lent the youth a phone on which to call his family. Another 10 minutes later, Mahmoud was able to flag down a taxi heading to Azzoun, finally arriving near midnight. The ordeal, led on baseless accusations, lasted nearly 10 hours and exemplifies what many young Palestinian men undergo as a result of Israel’s policy of targeting youths without cause and evidence.

This is not the first time Mahmoud has been unjustly subjected to beatings and interrogation. Just one year prior, in winter, Mahmoud, then 15, was arrested in his home at 1 am. Israeli forces knocked on his family door, initially asking for his brother, Mohammed, but returning 15 minutes later to seize Mahmoud instead, taking him to Ma’ale Shamron settlement police station for interrogation. Two other youths, aged 14, from Azzoun were also taken for questioning at the same time. At Ma’ale Shamron, police began a file on the youths, then taking them to the Ariel settlement police station. During the nearly hour-long ride, soldiers beat Mahmoud with batons on his head and all over his body, cursing his family and making accusations of stone-throwing, the pretext for the detention.

At Ariel, Mahmoud was taken to the roof where 2 Israeli interrogators put a plastic bag put over his head, pushed him to the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back and feet bound, and subsequently kicked and punched him all over his body for approximately 20 minutes. All the while, the two men continued to accuse Mahmoud of stone-throwing and to curse his mother and family.

The youth was finally taken inside to a bench where he was made to sit, still handcuffed and feet bound, from 3 am until 6 am. Passing police would hit him as he sat, slapping him awake when he dozed.

When Israeli intelligence officers arrived after 6 am they began to interrogate all 3 youths separately. Mahmoud was 3 times taken for interrogation, lasting 30 minutes each time. During these periods of questioning, his interrogators would ask the same questions, lob the same accusations, and would repeatedly try to coerce Mahmoud into confessing to stone-throwing. “You throw stones. Where is your gun? Your friend said you throw stones.” These statements and accusations were likewise put to the other two youths, in attempts to trick them into confessing into actions they deny having committed.

At around 4 am, Mahmoud was taken to Qedumim settlement for another 20 minutes before finally being released near the village of Jinsafut, approximately 8 km east of Azzoun.

These two personal incidents are not isolated but rather illustrate on-going and systematic policies and practices which serve to vilify and terrorize Palestinian youths. Residents suspect that along with the ongoing imposition of curfews and roadblocks on Azzoun, interrogation attacks like these are another element of the long-term strategy to fabricate a history of violence in the village in order to justify the construction of a separation barrier blocking the main entrance to Azzoun and cutting off access to road 55.