A verdict is expected soon in the trial of a Bedouin man from the Negev who was charged with murdering his daughters aged 2 and 3 more than two years ago. Ali Amtirat, of the Bedouin town of Al-Fura’a, is being tried in the Be’er Sheva District Court.
The bodies of the two girls, Asinat, 2, and Ramais, 3, were discovered in their home on May 21, 2013. They bore signs of having been beaten and strangled. Amtirat, one of several early suspects in the murders, disappeared at the time of the girls’ deaths. He was found some six weeks later, hiding in a cave in the Dead Sea area, and arrested.
Amtirat has consistently denied the accusation, saying his daughters were killed by a relative who was in dispute with his wife, the girls’ mother. After their deaths it was discovered that a day before they were killed, the mother had filed a domestic violence complaint with Arad police, but the complaint was not handled properly. The commander of the Arad police station was subsequently fired.
The case is based on circumstantial evidence; there was no forensic evidence at the scene, like DNA or fingerprints, pointing to the father as the killer. The primary witnesses in the case are half-siblings of the victims, relatives of both parents and Amtirat’s ex-wife, but their stories vary widely.
The Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Amtirat, noted that there are a number of reasons it will be difficult to convict him. His DNA was not found on a rope that was wrapped around the body of Ramais, or on either girl’s body. But DNA from an unknown individual was found, and although two other people were named as possible suspects, their DNA was never tested.
Moreover, the police did not summon a coroner to determine the time of death and did not release the bodies for autopsies for three days. This is relevant because there are conflicting witness statements about when the girls were last seen alive, and where.
Amtirat refused to testify in court. He went on a hunger strike for several weeks, until he needed medical treatment, and was hospitalized for some time.
Amtirat’s public defender, Tomer Urinov, told Haaretz the case was complicated.
“The evidence in the case is solely circumstantial, and you can’t get factual findings from most of it,” he said. Aside from the testimony of children from Amtirat’s first marriage, there is no evidence linking him to the girls’ deaths. Moreover, Urinov said, the testimony of several witnesses, including relatives as well as police officers, was found to be false.
The Southern District Prosecutor’s Office said it would address the case after studying the verdict.