Friday morning – it’s already hot. By 9am it is already in the high 30s. I approach HaSharon Prison, visible from Route 4 near Netanya. I am going to see my friend and human rights lawyer Zvi. It’s the first time I have a visit to this prison. After his removal from Ramle prison a week ago, I have been hearing some horror stories and I am hoping he is bearing up to the strain.
It’s been 5 months since his arrest in February as part of the alleged Cyber Terror Gang. Over a dozen arrested, with 3 still in prison facing trial in September. Whilst human rights activists have demonstrated for weeks and months, protests have become political and shadowed the real issues in Israel. Freedom of speech is fine once politicians take the stage and can criticise each other, but citizens are not afforded this freedom if alone.
Walking from the car to the entrance, it’s less than a minute or two, and I’m bathed in sweat on arrival to the turnstile. Visitors have to put everything into lockers outside. We are told to wait another 15 minutes before being allowed inside. It’s sweltering – the heat. I can only imagine how it is to be a prisoner.
We are allowed to enter, giving ID or passport in my case. Zvi’s relatives have brought new clothes, bedding and a bunch of legal papers for him to read. He has yet another arrest hearing after the weekend. The room is stuffy and has no air conditioning. We are checked in again at one window and sent to another one to deposit the things for him. Time passes, half an hour – an hour. The visiting time of 10am has no meaning. His things are passed through a window, sheets are checked around the seams and hems. There is a limit to how many socks, T shirts etc are allowed. All items are checked and thrown into a black bag. Cigarettes too. But the papers are another issue. They say all sheets must be read first and can be passed to him in a few days. That will be too late. Finally, we are allowed to take a plastic bag with the files to another window.
The heat is almost unbearable. Through a door we go to another check – shoes off, jewellery, pretty much everything, and pass through the detectors. We go on to another cubicle where men and women then go through a thorough body check. Finally, we reach an air conditioned room. Relief, but then we are the visitors so it’s not a thing to complain about.
I’ve seen my friend several times as a detainee in Ramle Prison, but nothing prepared me for this. After being moved due to it being dangerous for him due to his sexuality, he has endured a living hell. Now, he is locked up for 21 hours per day, with three separate hours of exercise periods. He keeps company in his cell with a child killer, a wife killer, serial killer, the list goes on. These are people who are serving life sentences. His protection? I find it unbelievable.
I’m later told by two criminal advocates that the wing he is in is a place where permanent hand out of ‘candy’ is offered by prison guards. He confirms this. The heat makes it impossible to sleep, and inmates are offered an array of pills to help them get through the day.
Zvi won’t take a single pill on offer. He looks exhausted through lack of sleep. Huge bites, red and angry, cover his arms. He cannot sleep. The inmates are like zombies, he tell us. He is facing weeks if not months in the cell. I cannot fathom the mental and psychological torture of putting a human rights lawyer who saved children in juvenile courts in a cell with a child killer.
Here is an example of the bites, obviously no cameras were allowed:
We learn that this neverending incarceration is based on his level of dangerousness. The State Prosecution will not consider his bail or house arrest on the basis he is allegedly more dangerous to the public than those he is now forced to share a cell with.
It appears that the bloggers who are in prison awaiting trial, all of them are accused and charged with insulting public officials. Zvi is now reading his accusations that he didn’t take blogs down and that makes him an accessory to the heinous crimes…of offending judges and social workers.
Judge Abraham Heiman, the arresting judge has ignored the fact that this detainee is a professional family and children’s lawyer; a fighter for human rights in Israel, and worked mainly pro bono. He has ignored the fact that because he is Gay his life is allegedly in danger. He ignored the assault on him in his own court room full of witnesses. The Judge has now to deal with the fact on Monday that this horrific hard core time being done is for innocent until proven guillty?
We sit, holding our phones, as he holds his phone on the other side of the glass – now 5 months deprived of human touch. Although we only have 30 minutes, there are gaps in talking as no one can really take in what is happening. It is just too awful, too unbearable.
He has had a bad week. Now he is ‘high risk’, his treatment has been inhumane. Solitary, tied down once, and moved like a dog in a cage from place to place. Though Netanya is only 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, we learn it takes over 24 hours to take him to a hearing. Shackles, cages, transit vans, cells, more holding cells, a dungeon cell below court…and then a few minutes of the Judge smiling wth pride that he will not let this most ‘dangerous man in Israel’ home on house arrest or bail to prepare his defence for a trial in a month. The Judge claims he wants to enjoy his 45 day recess and look at the matter in September. Forty five days of an inferno for Zvi, with endless days and nights and now doing the hardest time only warranted for serial killers.
We want to talk about things outside. He listens to family news, but it’s just too painful to tell and for him to listen. He’s strong in many ways, his mind keeps him coping. We are all fighting our emotions this visit.
He calls me after the visit, over and over. As he has done most days. Not only is he my friend, but an integral part of a civil society in Israel speaking out to the UN about human rights abuse of families and children. I want to rant and rage against the system, who are increasing the physcological and emotional torture on a man who is innocent until proven guilty. Guilty of upsetting a few public officials for not removing bloggers posts? It is an extreme punishment.
He thinks up idea after idea to fight for his freedom. Good days and bad days? No. It is bad days and less bad days. There is no way any Israeli Citizen should be put into a condition like this. But, he’s lucky – the hardened criminals are not homophobic. It beggars belief.
We are dazed after we leave. His family members were not prepared for this. Months in Ramle prison look like a picnic compared to this. Zvi is only allowed visitors every two weeks instead of weekly. He tells us that his exercise periods are on the roof, with no protection from the relentless sun.
He is only allowed 50 sheets of paper from the files. Nothing like enough to read and prepare for what will be another pointless hearing of the proud Judge who never gives house arrest, causing tens of thousands of people in the Tel Aviv District to be squashed in inhumane conditions for NO reason, and against all domestic and international laws.
We will continue our appeal to the UN for intervention. They will never publish what they do if anything, but we have no option. If the decision for detention until end of proceedings is upheld, this will be Zvi’s home for another 8 months.
More Taxpayers money wasted as Prosecution brings in a lawyer to defend $1000 small claim lawsuit
There comes a time when even as a journalist observing mens rights abuse, it is important to take a stand oneself.
After following the story of one father, witnessing the constant false claims made by his ex partner to discredit him which resulted in him losing his son, I too was faced with the ‘false claim syndrome’ afflicting women in Israel.
Last year, I was following the protest by over 100 men outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. The father in the story was not there, as he was in court on the other side of town, putting in yet another request for his evidence to be heard to refute the false claims he was enduring.
In need of the ladies room, I went into the Supreme Court building, with another man who was requesting to see elctronic court records. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ex of the father (an employee in the court), who went pale at the sight of me and fled. Thinking nothing of it, I continued following the gentleman. Suddenly I was faced with extreme hostility and ordered to leave the building – a public building which is full of tourists.
After receiving a less than pleasant time even being questioned outside the building, to my surprise the next day I received an injunction preventing me from writing and reporting! The father also received on, even though he was absent from the event.
It was claimed that I had organised the protest, and brought a hundred rampaging men to torment this helpless woman who works in the Supreme Court. She had never known of a protest there before and was convinced it was a plan and all of it designed against just her.
I can only begin to imagine how it must be for a man to face claims like this on a daily basis, and I took action by raising a small civil lawsuit against the lady for damages to my reputation.
It now appears that yet more influence is exerted in the defense of my tiny lawsuit. The defendant (court guard) has enlisted the lawyer who heads up the Prosecution in Tel Aviv – in a small civil suit, the big guns have been brought in. One has to wonder that when she loses this case, that there is a fear the whole house of cards built to persecute the father may collapse.
The issue facing the father is the big guns trying to stop a mere man from defending his human and civil rights. In the test case I’m following for compilation of an international report, it is easy to see how fast a man can decline if they don’t stand up against the onslaught.
In a precedent, another blogger 3758/06/14 Shem Tov vs Osifuv. In that case a female court guard assaulted and handcuffed the blogger. A lawsuit was launched, and a request was made to deny the guard legal representation from the State. The verdict – Judge Itay Hermalin accepted the request and denied legal State representation for the guard. He said in the protocol – “The small claims court must abide by the rule that legal representation by a lawyer of either party is no longer permitted. Permission in this representation harms both the purpose of the small claims court and it’s purpose of simplifying the procedures for the ordinary citizen and the small customer. As well as the principle of equality and maintaining the balance between the litigants.”
In fact, Judge Arbel and Rubenstein said in the Supreme Court that if a ministry is being sued, then they must take one employee who is not a lawyer nor legally experienced to be the chosen representative to preserve balance.
This is how much public money, time and energy goes into the nonsense of courts in Israel. So in the light of the recent exposure and Knesset committee discussion on how women are persecuting men with false claims, it is now me as a woman, who is suing another woman, in defense of a man who suffers false claims.
I wonder how the court will see this one?
Finally! Several hacks later, my website is back and running again. So much is going on in Israel, which the mainstream doesn’t show. The struggle for human and civil rights is gathering steam. I will be giving you as much information in English as possible.
Demonstrations; protests, the fight to free bloggers; it’s all happening. Plus the fight for a clean judicial system.