Nadia Matar, who heads the Women in Green activists group, was arrested Wednesday evening after a peaceful protest outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's residence.
Matar was released late Thursday. The following are excerpts of Matar's account of what happened:
At the end of our Women in Green vigil, when most people had already gone home, I stayed with some 15 friends and activists who were going to help put back the placards and the flags into my car. Starting to walk to my car, friends saw policemen coming closer and closer to me. They immediately realized the police were trying to get me but were waiting for the supporters to leave. I am still moved to tears thinking about those wonderful friends who immediately surrounded me to protect me and said: we are not leaving before we make sure you are OK. A heavyset policeman told me: "Nadia, I demand you accompany me to the police station." I asked him why: "What did I do wrong?" He answered: "That we will discuss later. I order you to come with me to the police, otherwise we will take you by force. I told him I wanted to call a lawyer to discuss what my rights are.
I heard him shout: "Nadia, come with me right now otherwise you will be responsible for the violence that will happen here!"
walked back to Paris Square, surrounded by my friends, sat down on the stone bench and started calling Honenu [a legal aid group -ed.] - all the time surrounded by wonderful friends and supporters. There I was, sitting on the stone bench, discussing the issue with the lawyer, surrounded by friends - but the police obviously had no patience to wait till I finish my phone call. I heard him shout: "Nadia, come with me right now. Otherwise you will be responsible for the violence that will happen here!"
Immediately after saying that, policemen started violently beating the women who were surrounding me to push their way through to get me. It was unbearable to see how they had no qualms beating and hitting older women and men. When they reached me they grabbed my arms and my legs, lifted me up like a sack of potatoes, shlepped me to the van in the most immodest way and threw me in the van. Being a religious woman I cover my head with a cap. in this violent commotion, my cap fell off so when I was in the van I raised myself, stuck my head out of the van and demanded to get my cap back. The policeman who was the driver barked at me saying: "Sit down right now." Another policewoman shouted: "Sit down right now or I will close the door on your head." I told them: "I will not sit down till you give me my hat," to no avail.
The driver policeman, whose name I found out later is Avi Nissan (ID #1114214) then grabbed my right wrist and twisted it in the most painful and violent way. The pain shot through my body. I was unable to stand and was thrown down on the seat - the door of the van shut. Then Michal Shofet, longtime Women in Green activist was pushed into the van too. I asked her why they arrested her. She told me that she was outside and witnessed the most brutal police behavior. When she saw that one woman had been pushed to the floor and looked as if she was fainting, she started shouting at the policeman, demanding he stop hitting. That is when he grabbed her and pushed her into the van. She said that her arm was really hurting. When I told her how upset was that I had no head-covering, she gave me her orange scarf.
(Photo: Gemma Blech)
We arrived at the Moriah Police Station around 9:30pm. We were put in a large room with a table and asked to wait. The policemen who had all been involved in our arrest sat down and started writing their version of what
happened. It was unbelievable to see how they were talking to each other -obviously coordinating what they were going to write. It took them close to an hour and a half to write. Meanwhile some 10 supporters had arrived at the police station and were giving us support from outside. Once again I want to thank them. At some point a lawyer sent by Honenu arrived. It was Ephraim Katzir. Boy, were we happy to see him! He was allowed to speak to us only for a few minutes. He told us that the police had decided we had to spend the night in jail and go to court the following day.
At around midnight Michal was taken in for questioning. My turn came around 1 in the morning. The officer called Avi Sutto, told me I was accused of:
1) "going wild after the order of dispersion" was given
2) participation in an illegal gathering
3) attacking policemen
4) disturbing policemen in duty
5) incitement to violence
6) blocking roads and blocking traffic
I asked him how come the list of lies and fabrications was so short. Maybe he wanted to add to the list: "accused of the murder of Jesus and Yitzhak Rabin? if you are already lying, make it a bit more interesting..." I told him. He did not like the fact that I was not fazed nor scared by his ridiculous questions, most of which I refused to answer, saying that this was a political arrest and I wasn't going to lend a hand to this circus - I was accusing them of harassment, persecution, stifling dissent, police violence etc. When he asked what I had said and that I was accused of "incitement to violence' I decided to give this man a bit of Jewish history. I took out of my bag and started reading the entire quote of Ben Gurion. He did not like the fact that he had to write so much but I told him "You asked me what I said. This is what I said. Are you trying to tell me that Ben Gurion's words are incitement?"
Then, a little before 2:00 in the morning he said: "OK, now we will finish the interrogation by taking your fingerprints and a DNA sample." I told him that there was no way I was going to accept that. He told me that it is the law and that if I refused he would do it by force. I told him I demanded to call Honenu. I called Honenu (who have a advisor on call 24 hours a day - what a wonderful organization!). The advisor on call told me that if it was important for me to refuse to this demand, I should say that if the next day the judge would obligate me to do so - I would, but at this moment I refuse to give my fingerprints and the DNA. When I told that to the policeman he went wild. He started shouting that I was hutzpadik (impertinent), that I was receiving bad counseling and that he was going to grab my hand by force and get my fingerprints. I put my hands behind my back and told him that I did not care how much he was shouting, I was not going to give him my fingerprints.
At this point he called another policeman who took over the interrogation. This was a higher ranking officer by the name of Tommy Zaken. He was more of a mentsch and was more bothered by the fact that some prisoners had escaped. He was constantly on the walkie-talkie giving instructions to his guys what to do to catch the fugitives. He decided to let go of the fingerprints and told me that now they were going to bring Michal and me to the Russian Compound to spend the night. In the morning we would be brought in front of a judge who would decide whether to release us or whether to keep us in jail.
Having spent the night in jail at the Russian Compound many years ago, during the Rabin-Peres regime, I must say that the place has not changed much, unfortunately. The only difference is that they seem to have painted the walls since then and the traces of feces on the wall that were there years ago, have more or less been taken away. Now the walls are full of graffiti mostly in Arabic. There are also slogans in Hebrew to remind us many activists against the expulsion of Gush Katif have paid a visit to that jail.
Each prisoner gets a tooth brush, toothpaste, a bar of soap. Then we had to give our valuable personal belongings (money, Visa Card, cellphone etc..) to be put in the safe. Afterward we were frisked to make sure we did not hide a cellphone or weapon somewhere in our body! We were brought to a doctor who asked if we had anything to complain about. I told them my hand had been twisted and Michal, who was in terrible pain and her arm was fire red, asked to receive pain killers. Then we were brought to our cell. I asked if we could get a room with a view but somehow we did not get that...:) There are no windows in the cell.
The cell is tiny. Two stone bunk beds are the only "furniture". There is no place to really stand. One must stay in his bed. Behind a door is a toilet, sink and a shower. The officer had told us that cameras were filming the cell but not the toilet. The main problem with the cell was that there was no air. It was just suffocating. We each got a mattress and two blankets. A Jewish woman in her fifties was in the cell. She did not talk much. The strong light stayed on the entire night making it impossible to sleep. Luckily they allowed me to take my siddur (prayer book) into the cell.
Trying to fall asleep, all I was thinking about was Jonathan Pollard. Here I had been in jail just for a few hours and I was already getting restless and bored and felt like walking the walls....how could Jonathan bear it? Twenty two years in jail. Twenty two years. Day and night. Day and night. And whatever conditions we were in, were probably luxury conditions compared to what Jonathan has. And despite all that Jonathan stays upbeat, full of optimism and love of Eretz Israel - giving us strength. I promised myself that the moment I would get out I would remind everyone to act on behalf of Jonathan's release, to pray for his health, and to do whatever we can to bring Jonathan home.
In the morning we received three slices of bread, a hard boiled egg, a spoonful of white cheese and half a yellow pepper. Michal and I could not eat for we simply had no air. We asked if they would let us have some air in the courtyard. Luckily they agreed and we spent from 8 in the morning till 12:30 in the afternoon in the courtyard, enjoying the fresh air. Never have I spent time thinking about the fact that we have to appreciate every day we can enjoy the fresh air of freedom. [...]
At 12:45 they opened the door and told us we were going to court. They put handcuffs on us. I asked them, "If you already treat us like criminals - why not put us in leg irons?" The policeman lowered his eyes in embarrassment and said that this is what he was told to do.
Arriving at the courthouse we were welcomed warmly by many of our dear and loyal family members, friends and supporters who had been waiting in court since 10:30 in the morning because they were told by the police that we had to appear at 10:30. No doubt in our mind that they kept postponing the hearing hoping our supporters would leave, but no, our Women in Green friends are like family and they stayed till we arrived.
Appearing before judge Amnon Cohen, the police asked to release us on condition that we would not be allowed to approach Paris Square, the PM's residence or any government ministry in the country for the next six months. In addition they demanded I give a DNA sample and fingerprints. [...]
Our lawyer Ephraim Katzir gave a moving and powerful talk explaining that this was a case of political persecution and that the judge could not give a hand to this crushing of dissent. No doubt that Katzir's talk influenced the judge who gave his ruling: "I rule to free Nadia and Michal without any condition. I do obligate them to give their fingerprints, and Nadia has to, in addition, give a DNA sample."
They took Michal's and my fingerprints. We both wrote on the page that we were doing this only because the Judge had obligated us to do so, but we still wanted to make clear that this was being done against our will.
We all felt very uplifted. Our lawyer had succeeded in convincing the judge not to agree to the Bolchevik demand by the police to stop our right to demonstrate in front of government ministries. [...]
To sum up the 24 hours that had passed; it is clear to us that the police received instructions from above to scare us and silence us. The Olmert government is very upset that we are raising our heads and are already now screaming gevalt against the secret agreement being concocted between Olmert and Abbas. [...]
The Olmert Government has no mandate to give away the Land of Israel. The creation of a PLO state in Judea and Samaria and the division of Jerusalem, with the handing over of the Temple Mount to the PLO will endanger the very existence of the State of Israel. At our demonstration we made it clear that we will do everything in our power to prevent this from happening. [...]
May Hashem give us strength to fight our internal and external enemies and protect the Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the Torah of Israel.[...] One thing is for sure. If the Olmert government thinks they scared us with their violent Bolshevik behavior, the exact opposite is the truth. We realize that we have touched a sensitive nerve. No arrests nor beatings will stop us. We will continue to fight for the Land , the People and the Torah of Israel. And if it is a crime to love the Land of Israel, then it is our honor to be arrested for such a "crime"!!