Israeli Judge Slams Shin Bet for Using Sleep Deprivation Against Jewish Terror Suspects

After suspects interrogated all night with only brief breaks, district court judge says 'abusive manner of interrogation' is unacceptable

Protesters against extending the detentions of Jewish terror suspects in Rishon Letzion, 2018.
Meged Gozani

An Israeli district court harshly criticized this week the conduct of Shin Bet security agency interrogators in their probe of two Jewish terror suspects. 

The court ordered the interrogators to allow the two suspects to get eight consecutive hours of sleep during the night while they are in detention. 

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Speaking during a hearing regarding the extension of the two suspects' arrest, judge Ophir Katavi-Rivlin said that the suspects' rights "are being breached in the most fundamental way." 

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The decision to force the interrogators to let the suspects get a full night's sleep came after the state filed an appeal to the court. 

Minutes of the hearing detail the hours during which one of the suspects was interrogated, indicating that in addition to an interrogation that took place during the day, he was also interrogated one day from 10 P.M. to 2:10 A.M.

Then, after a 20-minute break, the suspect was taken in for another interrogation that began at 2:30 A.M. and ended at 3:30 A.M. The suspect was then interrogated briefly again until 4:30 A.M. Later that day, he was questioned again between 7:05 P.M. and 4:30 A.M., with short breaks. This pattern continued for three days. 

The suspects, Yaakov Donat and Ariel Dahari, were arrested one week ago and only saw a lawyer for the first time on Wednesday after a warrant preventing them from getting legal counsel had expired. They are both suspected of conspiring to commit a crime, holding a knife in their possession, being members of a terror organization, planning to carry out a terror attack and committing crimes spurred by a racist motive. 

The two, as well as a minor who is also under arrest, are suspected of committing crimes as part of one affair the Shin Bet had been probing. Donat and Dahari's arrests have been extended until Monday, and the minor's arrest has been extended until Sunday. 

Details regarding the court's decision as well as minutes from the discussion on their interrogation were released following a request by Haaretz and Israeli news site Walla, after a gag order had blocked the publication of details concerning the arrests. 

Judge Katavi-Rivlin granted permission to publish the details, but the state appealed her decision – concerning both the gag order and the order to allow the suspects a full night's sleep. 

Katavi-Rivlin approved keeping the suspects under arrest, but harshly criticized that interrogation sessions were being conducted during the night, with interruptions, so that the suspects were unable to sleep without being woken up constantly.

“The suspect should be allowed continuous sleep at night of at least eight hours,” she wrote. “A situation in which the suspect is not allowed continuous hours of sleep, and he is taken out of his cell in order to be interrogated in the middle of the night, is improper. I have not found any justification for this abusive manner of interrogation.”

The suspects' attorney, Amir Bracha, said that "things are becoming clearer," adding that he believes that "this case will probably be closed very fast and the suspects will be released, and this can be gleaned from how pressured the investigative unit and the Shin Bet are – a pressure that led them to exhibit this extreme behavior."

The Shin Bet stated in response to this report: "The detainees are receiving their full rights as they are entitled to by law. The claims being made by entities with interests in the case, saying that the suspects' rights are being violated, are completely unfounded and their sole purpose is to create a false impression for the media and delegitimize the Shin Bet's work. Shin Bet interrogations are carried out according to law, and are closely supervised by the State Prosecutor and the courts, including the High Court of Justice. This is also true of all the moves being taken as part of the affair under investigation."