Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met on Monday with the families of five Jewish minors detained on suspicion of killing a Palestinian woman.
During the meeting, the families voiced their complaints about the methods used to question the boys, first and foremost that they were prevented from meeting with their lawyers.
Shaked’s office confirmed both the meeting and its purpose.
The five suspects, all students at the Pri Ha’aretz yeshiva high school in the West Bank settlement of Rehelim, are suspected of throwing stones at a Palestinian car in October and killing one of the passengers, Aisha Rabi. The Shin Bet security service said that during the investigation, it found a video of them burning an Israeli flag.
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Two of the minors, who were arrested Saturday night, will meet their lawyers for the first time on Tuesday. The other three met with their lawyers on Saturday, about a week after they were arrested.
Nevertheless, the investigation hasn’t been defined as one where information is needed so urgently that the Shin Bet can justify using physical pressure on them.
A court has ordered all the suspects held without bail until Thursday.
Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg criticized Shaked for the meeting.
“Hayamin Hehadash has different standards for Jews and Arabs,” Zandberg charged, referring to the new party just formed by Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. “The justice minister is continuing to fertilize the settlers’ poisonous gardens. Instead of doing soul-searching, she’s making electoral calculations and has run into the arms of the families of people accused of terrorism. If a Knesset member had done this with Palestinian families, he would already have found himself in the Shin Bet’s cellars.”
The suspects’ families also made statements to the media on Monday.
“The Shin Bet tried to keep information from the judge because it’s an alibi – that the kids were at a meal,” one father said.
Another father said, “I want to give the people of Israel important news – there is no Jewish terror... We educate our children to military service and love of the country.
“You have a friend, Amos Oz, who was in my [army] company,” he added, referring to the recently deceased author. “I have another son in the army.”
One of the mothers, whose son still hasn’t seen a lawyer, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the way the Shin Bet is interrogating her son.
“They told us he was sick and asked us to give him medicine,” she said. “I don’t know what they did to him and what he’s sick with. Don’t tell me there are no threats there, I don’t believe it. Perhaps they aren’t burning him with cigarettes, but they’re torturing him emotionally.
“I’m afraid, and I urge the prime minister, who’s responsible for the Shin Bet, to do something, to bring this saga to a close so we can see them,” she added. “We have no doubt about how they’ll return to us from a legal standpoint, but we have doubts about how they’ll come back emotionally.”
Last week, Shaked called the mother of one of the suspects and said she had discussed the boys’ interrogation with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan twice, “but I can’t intervene in the investigation and I also don’t know the details of the investigation.”
She added that Nitzan assured her that District Attorney Avishai Mendelblit was personally keeping tabs on the interrogation and reporting to him. “They’ve put a spotlight on this and are very aware of it,” she said.
Supporters of the suspects have been demonstrating since last week against the Shin Bet interrogations of them.