Jewish Terror Suspects Indicted, but Convictions, if Any, Will Be Long in the Making

Prosecutors face several hurdles in the upcoming trial of Amiram Ben-Uliel and the minor A.: First of all, the admissibility of confessions obtained under torture.

A relative holds up a photo of Ali Dawabsheh in the torched house in Duma, July 31, 2015.
AP

Indictments against the two suspects in the Duma arson and murder case were filed on Sunday, firing the opening shot in what is likely to be a protracted and difficult legal battle.

The first hurdle facing the prosecutors will the admissibility of confessions obtained under physical duress. Prosecutors will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the confession was a true one, considering that courts have dismissed such confessions in cases far less serious than the present one. 

In general, judges prefer to rule on a case-by-case basis when it comes to torture. In 2011, the head of the Palestinian terror unit that carried out the Park Hotel attack appealed his conviction, with his attorney saying that evidence obtained under torture isn't admissible. The judge ruled that the question of admissibility "merits further consideration" but upheld the conviction based on other evidence. 

Amiram Ben-Uliel.
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In the present case, the Shin Bet and the police claim that prime suspect Amiram Ben-Uliel's confession and reenactment were laden with unpublished details only the perpetrator could have known. That is in addition to the confession made by the second suspect, A., which incriminated Ben-Uliel. 

However, A.'s confession was also obtained with torture. At the beginning, the minor admitted his involvement in other incidents, but not the Duma firebombing. Under torture, he admitted that he and Ben-Uliel planned the event, but he had fallen asleep and did not arrive to the location in time. 

On the face of it, Ben-Uliel's confession is supposed to incriminate A. too. If the confessions don't correspond in their details, it will support the argument that the confessions were false. 

Another hurdle facing prosecutors is Uliel's claim that he acted alone. The Shin Bet were convinced that the crime was carried out by a unit and no previous Jewish terror attack, known as 'price tag' attacks, has been carried out by a sole attacker.

Ben-Uliel likely to claim In court that the fact that he didn't reveal any other names proves that he wasn't there - and that he has no idea who was really behind the attack.  

Another hurdle is the matter of the vehicle used by the alleged assailants. G., an 18-year-old from the Baladim outpost, was arrested on suspicion of providing the car used by the attackers. Another 30-year-old man was arrested for allegedly selling the vehicle to G., but not officially transferring ownership of the vehicle in order to cover its tracks.

If these details are true, why did Ben-Uliel say in his confession that he walked to the Palestinian village, instead of using a vehicle?

The witness list includes 132 witnesses for the prosecution, including 44 Shin Bet investigators and dozens of police officers as well as the victims. Bringing all the Shin Bet officials to testify alone will take a long time. 

Ben-Uliel has no incentive to reach a plea deal, since he will serve dozens of years in jail in any case. The trial will take place behind closed doors, both because A., the second suspect, is a minor, and because the Shin Bet prefers to keep as many details about its investigation as possible under wraps. 

Itamar Ben-Gvir in court on Dec. 28,2015 representing a suspect in the Duma attack on the Dawabsheh family.
Moti Milrod

Ben-Uliel's attorney, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said that "the indictment isn't the end of the affair, but the opening of Pandora's Box by the Shin Bet. I suggest the Shin Bet doesn't celebrate too soon.

"The Bus 300 affair, the Amos Barnes case and even the Bar Noar case prove that in certain incidents the system does everything it can to show it has solved a crime, even at the price of incriminating innocent parties." 

A.'s attorney, Adi Keidar, said: "For 40 days we've been hearing serious akkegations that the minor carried out the murder, and today it was shown that he has nothing to do with the murder itself.

"This claim was at the basis of the ludicrous approval to torture my client illegally, which led to his confession on other matters unrelated to the murder. The confession was forced out of him and we have no way of knowing whether he is linked to them.