Child Arrests: Mohamad Ibrahim Abu Maria

29 August 2011

The past year has seen a rapid increase in child arrests in Beit Ommar, as the Israeli army escalates this tactic of occupation. Last week, PSP visited the family home of one of these children.

Mohamad Ibrahim Abu Maria is a 16-year-old high school student from Beit Ommar. His case is one which sounds all too familiar in Palestine. Seven months ago, the Israeli army arrested him from the passenger’s seat of his father’s car. He is still in jail today, and has yet to be tried for any offence. Mohamad’s father, Ibrahim Abu Maria, told us more about his story.

Mohamad, who plans to study engineering at university after high school, was arrested from his father’s car in the town of Beit Ommar, accused by the military of throwing stones at occupation forces, a charge which his father says is fabricated.

Since then, Mohamad’s case has been a catalogue of Israeli lies and injustices.

On five separate occasions, a date for his trial was set. On the day of each trial, soldiers who were due to give evidence failed to attend, leading the judge to delay proceedings, and return Mohamad to prison until the next trial date. This pattern has repeated itself for seven month to date, during which time the only contact Mohamad has had with any of his family has been to see his father across the courtroom. Guards have on each occasion prevented Ibrahim for hugging, or even talking to, his son.

Ibrahim told us that his son’s case has drawn the attention of both Israeli and international human rights groups, who have complained to the Israelis about both the length of his time in custody without trial, and the grounds for it. Ibrahim cited inconsistencies in the written evidence submitted by the unit of soldiers responsible for Mohamad’s arrest, with some accounts claiming Mohamad was arrested in front of his house, while other claim he was arrested in the street behind his house. Ibrahim claimed that neither of these accounts mentioned the true place of arrest, the family car.

This is not the first time Mohamad has been subject to such treatment from the Israeli army. He was also arrested last fall, before being released a short time later without charge. During his interrogation, he was repeatedly asked to give false statements that two of his uncles – popular committee members Mousa and Yousef – had encouraged him to throw stones. This is a popular tactic of the Israeli army, and children across the West Bank have been threatened and intimidated into making false confessions which implicate popular committee members, particularly in Nabi Saleh. At present, three teenage nephews of Mousa and Yousef are in Israeli jails.

Mohamad’s next court date is scheduled for the 5th September, and Ibrahim remains upbeat about the prospect of his son’s release.