Anemic 14-year-old Awaits Trial for Alleged Stone Throwing, Public Order Crimes

RAMALLAH, February 5, 2015 (WAFA) – Khaled al-Sheikh, a 14 year old Palestinian child suffering from severe Anemia, was detained by Israeli army forces in his town Beit Anan, northwest of Jerusalem on December 24, 2014, and is currently awaiting trial on charges of throwing stones and attempted public order disturbance.

Hussam al-Sheikh, Khaled’s father told WAFA that his youngest child, who has been in detention for over 40 days, has lost so much weight and is visibly exhausted, but is courageously facing the harsh conditions in prison despite of his poor health and weak body.

He explained that Khaled has a critical Anemia condition with the latest blood tests showing the amount of red blood cells has dropped to 7 g/dL. Hussam expressed grave concern and said “I am mostly worried that Khaled will not receive the necessary medical care in prison or be denied proper food to keep him strong.”

Khaled was detained at around 3pm from Beit Anan and taken to the so-called “Binyamin” police center in the Jerusalem area. Hussam saw him after being detained around 1am the next day; Khaled was in a dreadful condition.

“He was definitely beaten up. I could see bruises and blood,” said his father. Khaled is not the only child to have been assaulted by Israeli soldiers during detention.

According to UNICEF’s Children in Israeli Military Detention 2013 report, “Many children are subjected to ill-treatment during the journey to the interrogation centre. Some endure physical or verbal abuse; some suffer from painful restraints or from being forced to lie on the hard floor of the vehicle.”

The tenth grader was faced with charges of throwing stones and activities against public order. Khaled’s friends, who were with him prior to the arrest, said they were playing with no intention to harm anyone when soldiers chased after them.

The teenagers were able to run away from the heavily armed soldiers, but Khaled was detained.

Hussam explained, “The area where the kids were playing is near the Separation Wall, but is still considered the only outlet where the village’s residents can spend time out and kids play around.”

He continued, “I have seen Khaled during the past three court sessions. I think my son was threatened not to speak to us. He looked afraid to even look at me and his mother.”

Hussam and Khaled’s mother attended their son’s hearings alone as only two of the suspect’s family are allowed to be present.

Hussam has seven children, four girls and three boys including Khaled. Like 14-year-old prisoner Malak al-Khatib, Khaled is the youngest among his siblings.

Khaled’s father said he attended both his son and Malak’s court hearings on January 19. Hussam sarcastically noted, “Two 14-year-old kids standing handcuffed in front of a 50-year-old judge, who considers them to be a threat to Israel’s security.”

Khaled who is expected to be either released after paying a fine, or sentenced to serve few months in prison as Malak, was still attending first term final exams. He remains in jail while his classmates are back to school for the second term and might miss the entire year if he is not released soon.

UNICEF explained that detaining children pending investigation “interrupts their access to education, further contravening their rights. For these reasons children in conflict with the law should be granted bail whenever possible.”

So far Khaled has been denied bail which was proposed by his lawyer, Akram Samara.

In a phone call, Samara confirmed that Khaled is facing two charges, namely throwing stones and carrying out activities against public order and was denied bail.

The lawyer defending Khaled said he was allegedly caught red-handed by Israeli soldiers while attempting to light a rubber tire.

Being a minor Khaled was detained and presented to a judge within 24 hours of his detention. The military judge decided to keep Khaled in custody pending investigation.

“A child should be brought before a judge within 24 hours of detention. The legality of continued detention should be reviewed by a judge every two weeks,” explained UNICEF.

Despite the fact that Israel sets laws especially for minors and selects Military juvenile judges, there is really no differentiation in treatment between minors and adults, which is a violation of international law.

Samara has been working as a lawyer in Israeli military courts for around 30 years. He said that Israel doesn’t consider the age of the suspect and treats all Palestinian suspects the same way. “If I present a 15-year-old child under the pretext of throwing stones, he will be receiving the same sentence and treatment as a 25-year-old. There is absolutely no consideration of the suspect’s age.”

Samara said that Khaled is going to stand trial on February 11, where the lawyer will respond to the indictment and request the court to set a date for the next session, during which the witness’s testimony against Khaled is going to be presented.

An Israeli soldier is going to be testifying against Khaled. The Testimony would decide if Khaled is to be charged on two charges or one only.

Samara said that the image of the Israeli military court which many Palestinian speak about in the media is not an exaggeration. “This is a court of an occupation. It is understood.”

Each year approximately 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, the great majority of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents.

UNICEF testifies that in the past 10 years, an estimated 7,000 children have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system – an average of two children each day.