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Shabak Torture Drives Israeli Palestinian Lawyer to Suicide

amjad a safdi shin bet suicide

Amjad al-Safadi, East Jerusalem defense attorney who committed suicide after Shabak torture.

Amjad al-Safadi was an East Jerusalem defense attorney whose clients were Palestinian security prisoners.  Two months ago, he himself was arrested by the Shabak and detained for 45 days.  He was charged with aiding Palestinian militant groups and their detainees.  During his detention he was tortured by Shabak interrogator goons.  Among his claims were that electric shocks were used against him.  He was released from prison and placed under house arrest (the same process used in the case of Majd Kayyal).  Yesterday, five days after his release, he hung himself at his home and died.

News1, in that breathless credulous way Israeli media has of reporting Palestinian security “crimes,” claims (Hebrew) that four Palestinian lawyers were arrested (the charge sheet was filed on April 4th) after being recruited by a former prisoner to pass messages to arrestees from Islamic Jihad and Hamas housed in various prisons within Israel.

They were accused of “tens” of violations of various security statutes including “contact with a foreign agent,” “serving an unlawful association,” and “obtaining materials to facilitate in acts of terror.”  The accused purportedly passed messages from the prisoners to the leadership of the militant groups with which they were affiliated.  The attorneys were allegedly paid between $100-150 for each message delivered, with the funds coming from the militant groups in Gaza. The messages were designed to coordinate protests within the prisons against treatment of security detainees, including hunger strikes, attempts to establish “radio contact between Gaza and the prisons,” transfer of funds among the prisons and coordination between the organizations and their imprisoned leaders.  The origin of these funds was allegedly an unnamed lawyer representing the organizations in Gaza.

For Israeli TV news coverage of the original arrests, see here.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know of my profound skepticism about virtually any criminal charge offered by the security services.  While I haven’t been able to delve into the evidence offered, the charges in this case strike me as dubious, if not ludicrous.  How some of the most highly surveilled prisoners in the Israeli prison system would’ve been able to create surreptitious radio communication between the prisons and Gaza, how they would have been able to transfer tens of thousands of dollars between prisoners and militant groups on the outside, how specifically the defendants aided in acts of terror–what materials they procured, and who they give them to?  It all appears to be an elaborate fictional conspiracy.

These alleged activities began, according to the charge sheet in January 2012 and continued till their arrest.  How such a conspiracy involving so much money, equipment and co-conspirators could’ve extended for a period of two years in some of the most secure facilities in the State of Israel beggars belief.

There are always readers who point out the heinous charges against the victims as if they were proven.  So let’s keep in mind that not only weren’t the charges proven, the victims hadn’t been tried, let alone convicted.  There is a presumption of innocence in most democracies, though my right-wing readers often conveniently forget this when a Palestinian is involved.

Whether or not al-Safadi was guilty of any of the charges, the very notion of torturing a defense attorney in a so-called democracy is beyond repulsive.  What does it say about Israel that it’s torturers can make a well-educated professional man kill himself when released?  Don’t Israelis understand that when their representatives do such heinous things it reflects on the entire nation?  Or do they not care because they can create a wall between “us,” the Jews, and “them,” the Palestinians?  What they do to “them” is somehow insulated from “us?”

All this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israeli ‘democracy’ is skin deep and reserved for the Jewish sector.  Among Israeli Jews there is a prevalent notion that their country can be a democracy even with the Palestinian minority being denied democratic rights.  The very notion is preposterous and indicates Israel is an ethnocracy rather than a democracy.

I have only been able to find one instance of an Israeli Palestinian prisoner committing suicide in an Israeli prison and none of prisoners killing themselves shortly after release from the torture chambers (there is of course the example of Ben Zygier, who committed suicide in his cell).  It’s always thrilling when Israel achieves yet another milestone in its march toward democracy and the rule of law!

I contacted the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and asked what they knew about the case.  Ishai Menuchin the director told me that they’d tried to locate Amjad within the prison system twice during his detention without success.  They heard he was at the Russian Compound (Jerusalem).  When they arrived to see him they discovered he’d been moved to Ramon, a different prison.  When they asked to meet with him there they were told he’d been released.

 

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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • pabelmont April 29, 2014, 2:51 PM

    RS: Your problem is that you lack imagination. You are too down to earth. Put your feet up (in the clouds) a little.

    Israel has always prided itself on its inventiveness, and what could be more inventive than a so-called “security service” composed of goons who can say what they like, never have to present evidence to be checked in a adversary legal system, etc., blah blah!

    So these guys who all had thwarted literary careers got into goonishkeit and became “auteurs” of improbably stories, with a prize given each year (in a secret ceremony, of course) for the most far fetched story that the Israeli news media would swallow.

    And the Israeli media, for its part, has a prize (also secretly given, but for another reason) for the reported who has shown the greatest ability to swallow these goonish “security services” stories. The losers just spit out the stupidest stories.

  • Deïr Yassin April 29, 2014, 3:48 PM

    His name is Amjad al-Safadi (“from Safad”…. as Mahmoud Abbas) according to Palestinian media.
    Non-Arabic speaking Israelis have the (bad) habit of transcribing the definite article ‘al’ as ‘a’ (ex. A-Tur, A-Ram instead of al-Tur, al-Ram) when it’s followed by a ‘sun-letter’, that is a consonant where the ‘l’ is assimilated with the initial consonant of the noun. In Arabic you write ‘al-safadi’ but pronounce ‘as-safadi’.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_and_moon_letters
    It’s not only nitpicking :-) but often has it’s importance when you search informations on the net.

    • Richard Silverstein April 29, 2014, 7:52 PM

      @ Deir Yassin: When I first saw his name spelled in Hebrew is was “al” but then another Israeli wrote to me & used “a” so I reverted to that. Thanks for the correction.

      • Deïr Yassin April 30, 2014, 12:16 AM

        Yes, I knew it must be a ‘Hebrew’ source. I don’t know why they always (mostly) spell it that way which is by all means incorrect.
        It seems that Al-Safadi was from Issawiya, as Samer Issawi and that he was detained together with Issawis two brothers and his sister Shirin who’s a lawyer too
        http://www.alray.ps/en/index.php?act=post&id=3803#.U2CihFdZpc.

  • Sara April 29, 2014, 8:01 PM

    How do you know this was the reason? What about shame and guilt over his crimes?

    • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:11 PM

      @Sara: Crimes? What crimes? You mean the ones he’s alleged to have committed & was tortured to death over? The ones for which no proof was ever offered? Those crimes?

      • Shmuel April 30, 2014, 11:43 PM

        Proof would have been offered had he not taken his life. He was indicted and released to house arrest pending trial. No evidence of torture was claimed by him or by his attorneys at the arraignment hearings as would be expected.
        You are purely speculating torture, we’re there to have been torture one would have assumed there were to be a coerced confession which there was not, if there was a confession he would not have been remanded on bail!

        • Richard Silverstein May 1, 2014, 12:58 PM

          No, I’m not “speculating.” Speculating would be saying he was tortured without having any basis or evidence for doing so. But a man doesn’t commit suicide upon release from prison unless there are some terrible things bearing down on his soul. As he said he was brutally tortured, I believe him. He’s dead. You might have the decency to accord some credibility to the statements of a man just before he’s decided to end his life after a stint in a Shabak torture chamber.

          As for why he didn’t allege torture during the judicial process: I’d suggest you try to arrange for a Shabak torturer to give you a dose of his “treatment” (with no deference for your status as a lawyer or an Israeli Jew) & then place you before a judge & see how eager you are to publicly detail what you suffered. I’m virtually certain that one of the tricks of the trade is to threaten the victim that if he does describe his treatment in court the prosecutor will ask to extend his remand, only to start the torture process all over again–and with a vengeance since you’ve defied the torturers.

  • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 2:15 AM

    Richard.

    Tortured? Beaten? Electric shock.
    Where is your proof. All you have is a desperate, and now dead, lawyer’s claims.
    And you had the gall to accuse Newsweek of ‘sensationalism’ in reporting European anti-Semitism.

    Why does the Maan article you link misplace the body?
    “He was found hung in his Jerusalem apartment early Tuesday, the group said.”
    “An Israeli police spokesman confirmed a suspected suicide victim found in a car but had no further details. ”

    How odd.

    • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 2:47 AM

      ““He was found hung in his Jerusalem apartment early Tuesday, the group said.”
      “An Israeli police spokesman confirmed a suspected suicide victim found in a car but had no further details. ”
      How odd.

      Odd, seeing as you can’t hang yourself in a car.
      Did someone find the body and place it in a car, or did someone attempt to drive the victim to a hospital.
      Odd.

      • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:24 PM

        @Jackdaw: what’s odd is that you put any credibility in anything the Israeli police say.

    • Elisabeth April 30, 2014, 9:00 AM

      I am surprised you have the gall to still comment here after all your examples of gruesome anti-semitic attacks in France turned out to be made up…

      • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 9:46 AM

        @Elizabeth

        You need to direct your concerns to Newsweek, not me.

        • Elisabeth April 30, 2014, 11:27 AM

          Really? You just defended Newsweek against the charge of sensationalism, remember? (“And you had the gall to accuse Newsweek of ‘sensationalism’ in reporting European anti-Semitism.”)
          At least be consistent in the nonsense you publish here.

          • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 12:51 PM

            @Elizabeth

            I didn’t defend Newsweek, I accused Richard of hypocrisy.
            Now go and tell Newsweek about their shoddy reporting. Newsweek may be more interested in what you have to say than I.

          • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:42 PM

            @Jackdaw: I don’t know about Newsweek, but I can tell you how interested most of us are in what YOU have to say…

          • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:40 PM

            @ Elisabeth: Consistency? I’m afraid you’re asking too much of poor Jackdaw.

        • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:38 PM

          @ Jackdaw: Sorry but since you tried to pass these incidents off as examples of rampant French anti-Semitism, I think placing the claims at your door is perfectly appropriate.

    • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:22 PM

      There is a legal concept called death-bed utterance. That is that a dying man’s near death words have special legal standing. Hence Amjad’s accusation of torture has great weight. Not to mention that PCATI has documented for decades precisely the sort of torture Amjad claimed. So if you ask why we know he received electric shocks, it’s because such torture practices are well & fully documented.

      As for as Israeli police claim that a man committed suicide in a car, you’d have to ask the police where they came up with that one. They’re excellent fiction writers. No doubt they can explain the discrepancy. But if you ask me who I believe, a Palestinian human rights group and independent Palestinian news agency or the Israeli police, that’s easy.

      • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 11:14 PM

        Death bed utterance? Please.

        A death bed utterance is just that. It is a heresay exception based on the fact that witness believes himself to be dying.
        Amjad al-Safad wasn’t dying when made the torture claims. He may have been contemplating suicide, but he wasn’t dying.

        This story, and Richard’s reportage, don’t add up.

        • Richard Silverstein May 1, 2014, 1:00 PM

          The man committed suicide. As far as I’m concerned he had made the decision to die and his claim deserves exceptional weight. As for you, you neither have any weight nor “add up.”

      • Jackdaw April 30, 2014, 11:19 PM

        The police didn’t say that he committed suicide in a car. They say that a body was found in car.

        • SimoHurtta May 1, 2014, 2:51 AM

          Jackdaw you are indeed a pride to your “nation”.

          Ma’an News says about theincident says:
          An Israeli police spokesman confirmed a suspected suicide victim found in a car but had no further details.
          Times of Israel says:
          Amjad al-Safadi was found hanged in his East Jerusalem apartment on Tuesday, police said.

          How Jack does a person who had made suicide by hanging at his home manages to transport himself to the car? Do you believe in zombies? On the other hand if somebody “unknown” has transported the body to the car, how does the police know, that the person made suicide at his home. What if a Israeli assassination group hanged the layer and then brought the body to the car?

        • Richard Silverstein May 1, 2014, 1:01 PM

          @ Jackdaw: I don’t give a crap what the police said. So stop with the police. It’s annoying & a red herring.

  • Shmuel April 30, 2014, 6:28 AM

    A few years back there was a discussion here about how to transliterate Arabic words like hummus/hummous/khummus etc.
    as far as I am aware there is no international standard as to whether letters should be transliterated exactly or written as pronounced. The same applies to Hebrew.
    Often in both languages familiar colloquialisms trump exact grammar.
    For example, no one writes Ram Allah but rather Ramallah. Similarly Nazerath for Nasrat or Natzeret. Gaza for ‘azzah.

    • Deir Yassin April 30, 2014, 10:45 AM

      I remember that discussion. Some Michael Shubitz wanted to tell Richard how to spell al-Mabhouh (with ‘kh’ he claimed which is wrong ! ) and how I should spell my pen name too.
      Though there is a certain liberty in transliterating Arabic letters to European languages (such as concerning letters that don’t have the equivalent sound), dialect vs MSA etc) and transliteration to English and French differ slightly: the letter ‘shin’ is mostly transcribed ‘sh’ in English and ‘ch’ in French), ex. Darwish/Darwich, the ‘waw’ ‘oo’ or ‘ou’ but there are rules. And as I said back then, Hebrew-speaking people are not yet the ones to decide how to transcribe Arabic to European languages.

      An Arabic word starting with a sun-letter and wih the definite article ‘al’ should either be transcribed gramatically or phonetically correct that is Al-Safadi/as-Safadi, al-Tur/at-Tur, al-Ram/ar-Ram but never a-Safadi, a-Tur-, a-Ram.
      And khummous in NOT correct, as ‘kh’ transcribes the khā’ خ (with a dot) and not the ḥā ح (without dot) which is the first letter in حُمُّص like in ‘hubb’, ‘habîbî’, ‘hayât’
      http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_alphabet
      When a foreign journalist pronounes Khamas, Fatakh, Makhmoud, Mukhammad, we know where he spents his time and gets his informations…
      PS. Nazareth is internationally used for an-Nāṣira, Gaza for ‎ Ġazzah/Ghazzah. A-Tur/a-Ram/a-Safadi are all Israeli-only inventions that no Arab would ever use !

    • Deir Yassin April 30, 2014, 10:46 AM

      I remember that discussion. Some guy named Michael Shubitz wanted to tell Richard how to spell al-Mabhouh (with ‘kh’ he claimed which is wrong ! ) and how I should spell my pen name too.
      Though there is a certain liberty in transliterating Arabic letters to European languages (such as concerning letters that don’t have the equivalent sound), dialect vs MSA etc) and transliteration to English and French differ slightly: the letter ‘shin’ is mostly transcribed ‘sh’ in English and ‘ch’ in French), ex. Darwish/Darwich, the ‘waw’ ‘oo’ or ‘ou’ but there are rules. And as I said back then, Hebrew-speaking people are not yet the ones to decide how to transcribe Arabic to European languages.

      An Arabic word starting with a sun-letter and wih the definite article ‘al’ should either be transcribed gramatically or phonetically correct that is Al-Safadi/as-Safadi, al-Tur/at-Tur, al-Ram/ar-Ram but never a-Safadi, a-Tur-, a-Ram.
      And khummous in NOT correct, as ‘kh’ transcribes the khā’ خ (with a dot) and not the ḥā ح (without dot) which is the first letter in حُمُّص like in ‘hubb’, ‘habîbî’, ‘hayât’
      http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_alphabet
      When a foreign journalist pronounes Khamas, Fatakh, Makhmoud, Mukhammad, we know where he spents his time and gets his informations…
      PS. Nazareth is internationally used for an-Nāṣira, Gaza for ‎ Ġazzah/Ghazzah. A-Tur/a-Ram/a-Safadi are all Israeli-only inventions that no Arab would ever use !

    • Richard Silverstein April 30, 2014, 10:36 PM

      @ Shmuel: I’ve learned to my chagrin that this not true and that there are standardized orthographies for transliteration of Hebrew to English & certainly Arabic to English. Before I learned this, I named this blog “Tikun Olam.” But an expert later told me that the Hebrew koof is transliterated with a double “k.” So “Tikkun” Magazine spells the word correctly and I don’t. But frankly to English speakers seeing Tikkun spelled with two k’s makes little sense. So stylistically I prefer one k. So I guess I’m saying that I agree with you in some sense. But we have to understand that there are orthographical standards.

      • Shmuel April 30, 2014, 11:59 PM

        If you started to talk about how to write the name of your blog then the double k is not because of the koof but rather because the koof has a dagesh (stress mark) which is written as a double letter when transliterated.
        To represent the koof ( as opposed to kaf) one ought to use q. Thus your blog might be tiqqun olam…
        A rose by any name…

  • Dana May 1, 2014, 12:41 AM

    The Israeli torture “authorities” are experts on driving people to suicide. They probably used on Amjad whatever they used on Ben Zygier. It’s not so hard to guess what some of the specialty cocktails could be. Something rtells me it wasn’t all a “psychological” factor.

    It’s nice that they have so many guinea pigs for their little “experiments”. I can think of at least one other individual who would have been proud.

    Too bad I haven’t figured out yet is what drove Michael hastings to drive into a tree (well, glance it) and have the car’s engine ejected 10’s of feet. It certainly wasn’t a “mental” condition. More like a “metal” one, coupled with a conveniently administered hallucigen. One that was not meant to be found.

    The shabaks of this world all have their tricks. But some countries perfected them more than others..

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