Court Rejects Petition by Suspect in Palestinian Family's Murder Over Excluding Women

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Amiram Ben-Uliel at the Lod District Court, 2019.
Amiram Ben-Uliel at the Lod District Court, 2019. Credit: Ilan Assayag
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

An Israeli court rejected Thursday an appeal filed by Amiram Ben-Uliel, an Israeli accused of the murder of a Palestinian family, citing his refusal to lift his head as he did not want to look at women in the courtroom. 

The Dawabshe family was murdered in a firebombing of their home in the village of Duma, located south of Nablus, in 2015. Masked assailants broke their window at 4 A.M. and threw a Molotov cocktail inside, killing Sa’ad and Reham Dawabshe and their son Ali, who was 18 months old.  Ali's brother, Ahmed, who was four years old at the time, sustained severe injuries, but survived the attack.

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Ben-Uliel filed an appeal with the Lod District Court against a pending transfer to another prison. Judge Ido Droyan-Gamliel wrote in his decision that a female stenographer and a female attorney had moved towards the edge of the courtroom out of their own initiative so that proceedings could continue.

The judge said there were several ways that Ben-Uliel could have established direct eye contact with him, adding that he “regretted having proposed options that restricted women.” Droyan-Gamliel wrote in his ruling that “Today we exile women from the center of the courtroom and make them cling to the wall, and tomorrow the appellant will demand that the state be represented only by a male," adding that such a lack of respect for the court cannot go unanswered.

The firebombed home of the Dawabshe family in Duma, the West Bank, 2015. Credit: Abed Omar Qusini / REUTERS

Ben-Uliel’s attorney, Chai Hever of the right-wing Honenu organization, said his client had requested to close his eyes during the proceedings without removing any women from the room. Hever offered to stand in front of Ben-Uliel so as to obstruct his view of any women, but his client refused.

The attorney said he expects “that there would be a separation between the legal issue and the person’s behavior,” but added that he “can understand and respect the judge’s wish to express his grievances against anything that could be interpreted as excluding women or any other population group.”

Hever added that "the population is diverse in Israel and there are also women who completely cover up their body except for their eyes. Why have they never been asked to show their entire faces in court? My client didn’t ask for anyone to do anything and for as long as we are speaking about his beliefs, they ought to be respected, even if they raise a certain challenge.”

Ben-Uliel’s trial is still ongoing, with closing arguments slated to begin next Sunday.

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