ISRAELI POLICE PROSECUTORS USE TRIAL OF DISSIDENT TO SET PRECENDENT FOR TRESPASSING INDICTMENTS
KFAR SABA -- Israel's police prosecution has admitted to using the trial of a Jewish dissident, remanded for a fourth month in jail, to decide a land ownership case and to issue multiple indictments for trespassing.
During the summations in the trial of Rivka Meirchik, a 29 year-old Jewish dissident arrested in the West Bank Jewish community of Shvut Ami, police prosecutor Nili Dayan said that the main complainant, Badria Amar, in a trespassing charge against Ms. Meirchik, was not present on the day of the defendant's arrest. But Dayan said this was irrelevant since Amar, 62, had filed previous complaints against other "Jewish settlers" for being on her land.
"Why did you bring her [Amar to testify]?" Kfar Saba Magistrate Clara Rejiniano asked on July 9. "I'm not going to take away her land. This is a case for the Supreme Court."
In an earlier hearing on July 2, Rejiniano ruled that the police indictment was faulty and did not include the charge of trespassing.
Despite the controversy over the indictment, Dayan said that it was important that the court would rule on the trespassing charge in spite of questions pertaining to the ownership of the land and that Amar was not on her land the day Meirchik was arrested.
"She's [Amar] the complainant," Dayan said. "We're talking about land that is not registered. In order to prove trespassing, we need to prove ownership and the physical presence [of Amar] or not does not affect this. I don't want it to come to that [to a Supreme Court hearing on ownership]."
During the trial, the prosecution tried to prove Amar's ownership of the land with Jordanian maps dated to the early 1930's and Jordanian possession tax documents presented by an expert witness from the military prosecutor's office, Rinat Levine.
Amar testified that she had not lived in the building in Shvut Ami for 40 years when she moved to Kfar Kadum, near the Jewish community of Kedumim. Amar also testified that she handed over responsibility for tending the land around the house to another Arab more than 11 years ago. She also testified that the last time she visited the land was in October 2007, seven months before Meirchik was arrested on April 2.
"I have no complaints [against Meirchik]," Amar said in cross-examination. "If there's a trial, why do I need complaints?"
The defense has said that the prosecution used the trial of Ms. Meirchik to set a precedent to indict Jews living in Shvut Ami for trespassing.
"They took this complainant [Amar] and tried to wrap her in this incident that she knew nothing about," Public Defender Aliza Kashkash, said. "All her complaints to the authorities were previous complaints [against other people]."
"Find a way to bring all these people to trial," Kashkash told Dayan.
Dayan responded that she was using Ms. Meirchik's trial to pave the way for multiple indictments.
"This is exactly the way," Dayan said.
Police have also charged Meirchik with assaulting a police officer and disturbing the police after officers ordered Meirchik and four other young women to leave Shvut Ami.
Police Commander Shmuel Hirshler testified that he announced to the girls that this was a closed military zone and that they were in violation of a military order. But Kashkash said that the order was invalid because it was dated Feb. 21 and the fact that it was not presented to the girls.
"At any stage, they never presented the order and there's a problem with this because of the date," Kashkash said. "So it [the eviction] was illegal."
The prosecution concurred that there were problems with the legality of the eviction order.
"That's why we didn't indict on violating the order," Dayan said.
With regard to the assault charges, Kashkash said that the police officers gave conflicting testimony as to where and how the alleged assault occurred.
Ms. Meirchik is also charged with refusing to cooperate with police identification procedures including fingerprinting and photographing.
"The defendant chose not to testify, to remain silent and to ignore the authority of the court for ideological reasons," Kashkash said. "This must be taken into account."
Ms. Meirchik, who refused to cooperate with police conditions for her release and is being held until the conclusion of judicial proceedings, has already spent three months in the Neve Tirza prison, most of it in solitary confinement.
The next hearing is scheduled for August 6.
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