Sentencing of Israeli Arsonist Who Killed Palestinian Family Delayed Over Survivor's Interview

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Amiram Ben-Uliel in court, 2019.
Amiram Ben-Uliel in court, 2019.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

The sentencing of an Israeli convicted of killing three members of the Dawabsheh family in their West Bank home in 2015, originally planned for this past Sunday, was postponed over interviews that the sole survivor of the attack and his grandfather gave to the media.

In an unusual move, Ahmed Dawabsheh, who was five at the time of the arson attack that killed his parents and baby brother in the West Bank town of Duma, was asked last week to testify at the sentencing hearing for convicted murderer Amiram Ben-Uliel.

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It was cleared for publication on Thursday, following a Haaretz request for information, that 10-year-old Dawabsheh was asked to appear in court at the request of Ben-Uliel’s lawyer, public defender Asher Ohayon. The attorney made the request following an interview with Dawabsheh in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth last month and one with his grandfather, Hussein Dawabsheh, in May. According to Ben-Uliel’s lawyer, in the Yedioth Ahronoth interview and other articles the boy was quoted as describing the incident differently from how it was described in Ben-Uliel’s verdict.

Ohayon asked for the raw material from the Yedioth Ahronoth interview, but according to him, the newspaper said it does not have it.

Thirty mental health professionals wrote in an opinion submitted to the court by Omar Hamaisi, the lawyer representing the Dawabsheh family, that testifying would be damaging to the 10-year-old. The court ultimately agreed that Dawabsheh did not have to testify over concerns that it could cause psychological damage. The court decided it could rely on interviews, with the prosecution saying it had found two Arabic-language articles in which Dawabsheh described the attack.

Ahmed Dawabsheh receives a visit from his maternal grandparents in a hospital after surviving an arson attack on his family's home, on December 5, 2015.Credit: AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

Ben-Uliel was convicted in May, and the prosecution is requesting that he receive three life sentences plus 40 years in prison for other crimes.

Ahmed Dawabsheh had been called to testify in the judges’ chambers, not in front of lawyers, and was to be accompanied by a translator and another person of his choosing, other than his grandfather, who testified in the hearing on Monday. “It’s a strange move,” Hamaisi, the family’s lawyer, recently said. “It means that they want to question the child … I don’t know what the court expects of him under these circumstances.”

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