Four Minors Suspected in Jewish Terror Case Released to House Arrest; Fifth Still in Custody

There is an 'evidentiary difference' between the suspect in detention and his four classmates, who were released to house arrest, in October’s stoning death of 47-year-old Aisha Rabi, source tells Haaretz

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Protesters demonstrate against the detention of the Jewish minors outside the Rishon Letzion magistrate's court, December 31, 2018.
Protesters demonstrate against the detention of the Jewish minors outside the Rishon Letzion magistrate's court, December 31, 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

An Israeli judge ruled on Thursday to keep one of the five Yeshiva students implicated in the October murder of a Palestinian woman in detention, saying suspicions against him are of the "highest order."

Aisha Rabi, 47, was killed after stones were thrown at her car on a West Bank road. The judge of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's court released the other suspects to house arrest, but said that the dangerous nature of the offenses clearly supports the fifth suspect's continued detention.

File photo: Undated photo of Palestinian Aisha Mohammed Rabi, murdered by stone-throwing in the West Bank in October 2018.

The judge said that in the case of the fifth suspect, there was no appropriate alternative to his incarceration due to the nature of the allegations and concern over obstruction of justice.

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At the request of the police, the judge cleared the details of the judge's assessment for publication on Thursday.

The suspect and four other classmates from the northern West Bank yeshiva high school in the settlement of Rehelim are suspected of involvement in the stoning of the car Rabi and her husband were travelling in near the settlement. Rabi, a mother of eight, was reportedly struck in the head with a rock and died shortly after. Her husband was lightly wounded.

A demonstration against the detention of the five Jewish minors, outside the president's residence, Jerusalem, January 5, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman

The detention of the five suspects prompted criticism over the conduct of the Shin Bet security agency during the investigation. Adi Keidar, a lawyer for one of the five suspects, said that his 15-year-old client underwent interrogation during his detention.

"For most of the day, he was shackled to a chair with his arm behind him, with short breaks for basic needs," said the lawyer. He added that his client reported that the interrogators had spat on him and physically and verbally abused him during questioning.

For his part, the Rishon Letzion judge praised the security services, saying that they are carrying out "thorough, serious and hard work in an effort to arrive at the truth." The judge said that investigators made good use of the time that the suspect has been detained. A gag order on other details of the case remains in effect until at least January 20.

The police said that all five students are still suspected of Rabi's murder, but one source told Haaretz that there is an "evidentiary difference" between the student who is still in detention and the other four. As far as is known, all five refused to speak under interrogation, meaning that the evidence against the detained suspect is not from his own account.

On Thursday, the Shin Bet alleged that there were attempts to disrupt the investigation, including "spreading false information with regard to the conduct of the investigation while besmirching the Shin Bet and its staff." In its statement, the Shin Bet said it would continue to pursue the case "against any party involved in terrorist activity, whoever he may be."

Hay Haber, a lawyer from the Honenu organization, which has been providing legal representation to suspects in the case, said his group would demand an investigation into the Shin Bet's conduct. "The Shin Bet has again caused emotional harm to innocent young people," he said.

Honenu describes itself as an "Israeli Zionist legal aid organization" which offers legal assistance to "soldiers and civilians who find themselves in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel."

Another lawyer for Honenu, Itamar Ben Gvir, alleged that it has been clear that the Shin Bet's detentions were primarily meant to serve the Shin Bet's public relations needs and "there is no real material linking the suspects, including my client, to involvement in the incident."

His client endured harsh and traumatic interrogation over a 12-day period, Ben Gvir said. "At this point, there is one question to ask. Who will compensate him for that trauma? I expect the Shin Bet interrogators to do some soul-searching."

Early last week, the Shin Bet arrested three of the suspects on suspicion of murder. On the following Saturday, they arrested the two others. The two were initially picked up at a protest in support of the other three.

On Wednesday, the police summoned all of the students at the Pri Ha'aretz yeshiva for questioning. Other than the five, none of the students have been questioned as suspects at this point.

Police entered the yeshiva in the face of protests from the yeshiva's staff, who said they did not have a search warrant. The police set up a stand and began distributing the summonses to the students, some of whom objected to the police presence at the yeshiva. As of Thursday, about 30 of the students have been questioned.

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