Prosecutors Say Murder of Israeli Teenager by Palestinian Wasn’t Political

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Ori Ansbacher.
Ori Ansbacher.

Senior figures in the State Prosecutor’s Office have accused Shin Bet interrogators of causing a Palestinian suspected of murdering an Israeli teenager to admit the crime was politically motivated, even though they say evidence and the nature of the crime suggested otherwise.

Arafat Irfaiya was arrested and interrogated by the Shin Bet over the rape and murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher. Haaretz has learned that Irfaiya did not admit to a political motive during his first interrogation, and only did so during his second interrogation session after being asked whether that was his motive.

The State Prosecutor’s Office reprimanded the Shin Bet, but Irfaiya’s admission led to him being indicted on a terrorist murder charge, in addition to rape and entering Israel illegally.

Investigation materials provided by police and the Shin Bet to Irfaiya’s attorney do not clarify how the supposed political motive materialized. As is typical in cases involving Shin Bet interrogation, the defense was given only a memo summing up the interrogation sessions and not a full transcript.

Irfaiya, a 29-year-old from Hebron, has served two prison sentences in Israel. In 2009, he was arrested for carrying a knife near the Cave of the Patriarchs and sentenced for three months in prison. In 2017, he was arrested again for carrying a knife and illegal entry into Israel for which he was sentenced to five months in prison. His current trial is being held behind closed doors in Jerusalem’s District Court.

The Shin Bet said in response that toward the end of the interrogation, a consultation was held between members of the agency and police with members of the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office. Given that this was an internal discussion, the Shin Bet said, details of it could not be shared publicly. It added that “as always, the main goal of the Shin Bet interrogation was preventing harm to national security – and therefore it strives to examine the truth, and only that.”

Ansbacher’s body was found in a wooded area in Jerusalem, unclothed and displaying stab wounds. Irfaiya was arrested the next day in the Ramallah area, where he had previously worked in construction, on the basis of DNA evidence found at the scene and intelligence information. According to the indictment issued against him in March, Irfaiya was walking in the woods when he spotted Ansbacher.

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