High Court Authorizes Shin Bet to Bar West Bank Arson Suspects From Meeting Lawyers

Security service says severity of the deeds warrants preventing suspects from consulting their representation.

A relative holds up a photo of Ali Dawabsheh in the torched house in Duma, July 31, 2015.
AP

The High Court of Justice on Sunday authorized the Shin Bet security service to continue preventing three suspects in a fatal arson attack in the West Bank this summer from meeting with their lawyers.

The three, who are suspected of involvement in the July fire bomb attack in the Palestinian village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family, have been in custody since late November and have yet to meet with their attorneys.

By law, the head of a Shin Bet investigative team can prevent a suspect from meeting with a lawyer for up to 10 days. A district court judge can extend the period to 21 days, after which there is no legal basis for prohibiting a meeting.

The detainees’ lawyers petitioned the High Court, demanding that they be allowed to meet with their clients. They argued that the suspects do not constitute an immediate threat, a “ticking bomb,” as they put it. The Shin Bet, in turn, stressed the “great importance” of preventing the meetings “in light of the seriousness of the offenses attributed to the appellants.”

The court accepted the security service’s argument. In the decision, which was published on the court’s website, Justice Salim Joubran wrote that he was persuaded, based on his review of classified materials, of the continued need to deny the suspects access to legal counsel in order not to obstruct the investigation.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, who represents one of the detainees, said in response, “The feeling is that the court is giving too much credit to the Shin Bet, and the problem is that such conduct is liable to lead an innocent person to confess to something he didn’t do. We are in the third week in which a meeting with an attorney has been refused and despite this, Justice Joubran approved the ban.

The arson attack killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, and seriously burned his parents, who subsequently died of their injuries. A 4-year-old brother, Ahmed, remains hospitalized. The attackers painted “revenge” and “Long Live the King Messiah” on the walls of a different home. Witnesses said they saw four people fleeing the site toward the settlement of Ma’aleh Efraim. The military declared the incident an act of Jewish terror.