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Israel releases 12-year-old boy from prison

March 7, 2010 3:06 P.M. (Updated: March 9, 2010 10:25 A.M.)
Hebron - Ma'an - Hassan Al-Muhtaseb, 12, was released Sunday, when an Israeli military court in Ofer prison ordered his father to pay 2,000 shekel fine.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Society appointed ten lawyers to assist in the child's defense. Many of his relatives were allowed to be present during the hearing.

"The boy was detained near his family home, and there were no witnesses who testified that he threw stones at Israeli soldiers. No indictment was filed against the boy. This hearing contradicts the 1989 convention on children’s rights which Israel signed in 1991 according to which a minor can’t be jailed with adults. Thus, we demand immediate release of Hassan," said one of the lawyers representing the child.

Heated discussions ensued during the first session of the hearing between the lawyers and the Israeli judge who insisted that the boy’s father, Fadl Al-Muhtaseb, pay a 2,000 shekel fine. However, the child's lawyers had the fine order revoked, with the judge ordering in its stead a commitment from the father that Hassan will appear before the court if summoned.

Hassan’s older brother, Rashid, extended his hand to his brother, but was restrained by Israeli police. The father also was prevented from holding his son, and a heated argument followed with Israeli forces.

The child told attendees that he was not afraid to stand trial before the military court.

On Wednesday, Hassan's detention was extended, with his father commenting, "My child was brought to court with both his hands and feet cuffed. He was very scared of the many soldiers around him. It is ironic that the judge extended his detention until Sunday until an indictment is issued against him," he said.

Al-Mutaseb was asked to pay a fine of 5,000 shekels, which was then reduced to 2,000 shekels. "What law allows a child to be tried in court and then asks his father to pay a fine? I will not pay the fine, and you have to release my child."

"This is the law of Israel's occupation," the father said.

The lawyer representing Hassan, Lea Tsemel, handed the child a small balloon from her briefcase for him to play with, which brought laughter to the court room. The presiding judge reportedly attempted to conceal his face when the toy was given to the boy.

Hassan was detained on Monday with his brother Al-Amir, 9, who was later released.

According to article 37 the UN Convention on the Rights of the child, which Israel ratified on 3 October 1991, "The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
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