I never thought I would want to be in a prison,
but my week started by spending a morning in Ofer Prison,
which is just a short drive north of Jerusalem.
I had a chance to observe and take photos in the Ofer Military Court.
On September 23, 2011,
the day that Mahmoud Abbas was in New York City
to declare a Palestinian state,
Asher Palmer, a dual American and Israeli citizen,
and his infant son Jonathan were killed after
a rock thrown from a moving car crashed through his windshield.
To get into the courtroom where his accused murderers were being tried,
a small group of Palmer family supporters gathered outside
and waited to go through the heavy security.
Behind this door were sensitive metal detectors.
Thanks to my press pass I did not have to undergo a body search.
But no surprise… no photos are allowed in the security area.
Arriving in a courtyard,
we and other visitors waited to enter the court room.
It was a hot day, the shaded areas may not make for great photos,
but they sure felt good.
No cell phones, bags or bottled drinks are allowed to be brought in,
but food and drink can be bought in this shop and
cigarettes are available 24 hours a day from this machine.
The trial has gone on for some time,
more sessions already on the calendar for June and July.
Special for this session was that representatives of the US State
and Justice Departments were in attendance.
They spoke with Michael Palmer, Asher’s father,
who flew in from the US for the trial and with his legal consul.
The courtroom, one of many, is seen in the background.
Finally we were allowed past this last fence and into the courtroom
where Wa’al al’Arjeh, the accused driver and ring leader
was waiting for the proceedings to begin.
Adrian Agassi, a retired military judge
who is acting on behalf of the Palmer family, got up on several occasions
to explain to Michael Palmer what was happening.
The proceedings were conducted in Hebrew
with simultaneous Arabic translation and much of the time
it was hard to hear and understand what was happening.
In the last court session it was ruled that spectators
may hold a photo of the dead father and his baby son,
as was done by Palmer family supporters.
US officials sat in the row behind them.
When the judges enter the courtroom photos are no longer allowed.
This picture of Ali Saadeh, the alleged stone thrower,
was taken just before they entered.
This trial was to hear his testimony against Wa’al al’Arjeh.
In an Israeli military court a defendant has the right to hear his accuser.
Only Ali was afraid to testify, not because of the Israelis,
but because of fear of vengeance against his family by the al’Ajeh clan.
The six defendants in this case all come from the same village,
their families were noticeably missing from this trial.
So why is this so important?
The 47-year-old man who was convicted of stealing Asher Palmer’s gun
could have been sentenced to 3 years in jail, but got 10 months.
He had the victim’s blood on his hands, and now he can be tried
for desecrating a body, which carries a longer sentence.
The earlier testimony of Ali will be used
and his terror of future acts of violence speaks volumes.
Throwing rocks from a moving vehicle is a new terror tactic,
this gang met for a month working on a plan to “kill Jews,”
making this a premeditated murder.
Michael Palmer wants his son’s and grandson’s murderers
to get a life sentence and not get a plea bargain for a lighter one.
Families of victims of terror suffer for life.
Michael Palmer does not want these terrorists to get off easy.