Hundreds Outside Shin Bet Chief's House Protest 'Torture' of Jewish Suspects

Police block them from reaching Yoram Cohen's house, as demonstrators protest Shin Bet handling of suspects in Dawabsheh arson-murder.

Protesters gather outside the home of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, December 19, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Around a thousand demonstrators gathered Saturday night outside the Jerusalem home of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, protesting what they defined as the torture of the suspects in the torching of the Dawabsheh family home in Duma that led to the death of three family members.

As nearly one hundred demonstrators tried to reach Cohen's house, police blocked the streets in a perimeter around the house, while pushing away demonstrators.

The suspects were detained in late November, and were allowed to meet their attorneys from the “Honenu” legal aid organization last Wednesday. On Thursday the attorneys representing them convened a press conference in which they alleged on behalf of their clients that Shin Bet investigators tortured their clients during the interrogation, leading to their confession of other attacks, though not an attack on the Dawabsheh's home.

The Shin Bet responded by claiming that they had been “intensely interrogated.”

The torture, as described by lawyers, sounded exactly like descriptions given by Palestinians who had been subjected to similar interrogations.

File photo: Three women stand inside the Dawabsheh family home in Duma, West Bank, where an arson attack claimed three lives, August 4, 2015.
Menahem Kahana \ AFP

The attorneys stated that under duress, the suspects had confessed to several violent crimes, such as the torching of mosques, and had also incriminated others, but they did not confess to the torching in Duma. Attorneys Adi Keidar and Itamar Ben Gvir stressed that the Shin Bet currently has insufficient evidence against the suspects.

In response to these accusations, the Shin Bet said that since the arrests were made, Honenu has launched a campaign to tarnish the Shin Bet's image and that of its interrogators, aimed at disrupting its activities. 

Also, several key activists had been arrested and subjected to intensive interrogation regarding the suspicions leveled against them.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the statements made by the lawyers raised serious doubt regarding the use of illegal interrogation methods, such as the use of physical force and the deprivation of sleep for long periods.

"Such methods have been rejected by the High Court as torture," the association said in a statement. "We call on whoever in the Justice Ministry is responsible for investigating complaints against the Shin Bet to open an immediate investigation into the latest complaints.

Raz Nizri, the deputy attorney general for criminal law, told a Knesset committee on Monday that extraordinary measures have been used in questioning the suspects.

Speaking to a session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debating the extension of a temporary order preventing security suspects from meeting with their lawyers, said the measures were approved by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and had judicial oversight.

In a conversation with Haaretz, Nizri said the extraordinary measures included waiting more than 48 hours before bringing suspects before a judge and the extension of their detention period in absentia.

On Sunday, the High Court of Justice authorized the Shin Bet to continue preventing three suspects from meeting with their lawyers.