Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Update on Khalil Ibrahim

Khalil was arrested on February 23.

On February 24, we heard that Khalil had formally been charged with assaulting a soldier. A ridiculous charge. Khalil was certainly angry as he was being arrested, but given that he had been chased off his family's grazing land by the Israeli army and that the soldiers refused to provide ANY semblance of a reason for his arrest, and the fact that a soldier headbutted his brother, and given that he was being grabbed by the throat as he was being arrested....

...well given all that, I think he handled himself quite well. And no, he did not assault a soldier.

On February 25, my colleague and I went to Kiryat Arba Police Station to present the video documentation and to give our testimony of the incident. A big thanks to an Israeli lawyer to helped us out pro-bono to set this up. I watched the videotape with a police officer, who seemed to believe that Khalil must have hit the soldier before I started videotaping (this is an odd claim, because the tape begins with the soldiers about 300 meters away from the shepherds, and the soldiers are clearly chasing the shepherds...so unless Khalil was Stretch Armstrong or Inspector Gadget, then he wouldn't be able to assault a soldiers from 300 meters away). I did my best to narrate the tape as it was going down, to provide the officer with some context. As background, we also gave the video to a lawyer on the 24th, so that she could watch the tape before we took it to the Police. Why did we do this? Well, it's not unheard of for the Police to see video evidence and add additional charges to the existing charges. For example, the officer might say, "well we don't see him assaulting a soldier in this video so he must have done that before, but we do see him resisting arrest, so we will add that charge." At this point I usually start going crazy because any human being in their right mind would resist arrest if she/he were being arrested for shepherding their flock of sheep and the arresting authorities refused to provide any reason for the arrest. But thankfully additional charges weren't added, but I digress.

So then I provided my testimony to an officer who spoke better English than the first officer. He was translating (out loud) from English to Hebrew as I spoke, and was typing with one finger. I got out about 7 sentences before he was tired of my testimony, so I just tried to get across the important point, "Khalil did NOT hit a soldier."

On February 25 an Israeli activist went to the prison to try to bail Khalil out. The original fee was said to be 2,000 shekels (500 dollars), then it dropped to 1,500 shekels (375 dollars) after some negotiation. The amount was paid ( I guess this is more like ransom than bail...it's just an amount paid so Khalil can leave the prison, so apparently they aren't to convinced he is actually a criminal or a dangerous person). Then this activist was told that Khalil wasn't at the police station, that he had been transfered to Ofer Military Prison near Ramallah. Then we heard he was at Gush Etzion Police Station. News kept swiraling around and changing. We didn't hear solid news until the morning of February 26, when we heard Khalil had been released from Gush Etzion Police Station. Khalil had no money nor ID. But in the true Arab spirit, he was given a free ride from Bethlehem to Hebron and then from Hebron to Yatta (where he has relatives).

Khalil is currently with relatives and should be coming home soon. We don't know if he was beaten by soldiers, all we know is he was grabbed by the throat for sometime and then blindfolded and forced to walk more than a kilometer before he dissapeared out of sight.

I spoke with his family more than a dozen times over the course of those days, providing them with every shred of new news. Every conversation ended so sad, with me saying something like, "sorry, that's all I know." The last conversation I had with them was great when I was able to tell them that Khalil was out for sure, which was followed by a chorus of, "Praise be to God," in the background.

Last night I was with the family and Khalil was still with relatives. Khalil called to say hi to his family and his brother answered the phone and told Khalil, "Hey man, we were really concerned about you, but now that you are home safely stop bugging me by calling me, I'll see you when I see you. You aren't the center of attention anymore."

I was glad to see all is back to normal, well except for that whole being-arrested-for-nothing-thing.

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