Israel Says Case Against Duma Suspects Solid, Even Without Inadmissible Confessions

Israeli enthusiasts of the murders demonstrated in support of Ben-Uliel outside the courthouse on Tuesday screaming “Ali burned, Ali is on the grill”

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Five year old Palestinian boy who survived a firebombing by Jewish extremists that killed his parents and brother arrives to Madrid to meet Real Madrid football stars on March 6, 2016
Five year old Palestinian boy who survived a firebombing by Jewish extremists that killed his parents and brother arrives to Madrid to meet Real Madrid football stars on March 6, 2016 Credit: AFP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Prosecutors asserted Wednesday they have solid evidence against the two defendants in the 2015 murder of a Palestinian family in the West Bank, despite a court ruling Tuesday that most of the main defendant’s confessions are inadmissible because they were extracted under torture.

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Three members of the Dawabsheh family were murdered when Israeli settlers firebombed their home in the West Bank village of Duma in July 2015. Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive in the fire, while both his parents died of their injuries soon afterwards.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from Jerusalem, was charged with the murders and with the unsuccessful attempt to set alight another house. A minor who allegedly participated in the murders was charged with being an accessory, while two others were charged with crimes of violence.

Haaretz has found that Ben-Uliel’s confession which was deemed admissible referred in detail to the role of the second defendant, who was charged with conspiracy to murder. In view of the other evidence, the prosecution will press for convictions on the present charges, it was learned.

The court ruled Ben-Uliel’s murder confession inadmissible because it had been extracted under torture, and struck down another confession, but accepted a third confession, which included a detailed reconstruction of the murder. The prosecution had insisted on Tuesday that the court had granted in full its request regarding Ben-Uliel’s confessions.

>> Hundreds outside Shin Bet chief's house protest 'torture' of Jewish suspects >>

The prosecution said it has circumstantial evidence as well as concealed details, which only someone involved in the crime could know, which Ben-Uliel knew. So it figures the chances of convicting him are high.

On the other hand, the Central District Court deemed the confessions of the second defendant, the minor, inadmissible. The minor also confessed to being involved in six hate crimes, including four arson attempts and two acts of vandalism and hate graffiti against Arabs, but did not admit any connection to the Duma murders.

The minor apparently spoke about the Duma murders with his interrogators “hypothetically,” and his admission was described as a “hypothetical confession.” He detailed how the crime could have taken place, but was careful not to speak in first person, rather in third person. This admission is seen as auxiliary evidence, with less legal weight than a clear confession.

>> Torture allegations pit Shin Bet against the settler community >>

The court disqualified later confessions the minor had made after he had been interrogated under torture, in which he spoke directly about the part he played in the Duma murders. The prosecution did not attribute the Duma murders directly to the minor, but charged him with conspiring to commit it. This is because he did not show up on the night he had allegedly agreed with Ben-Uliel to commit the murder.However, in Ben-Uliel’s confession, which was accepted as evidence, the minor’s name was explicitly mentioned.

Another source familiar with the case confirmed that the minor’s name had surfaced in Ben-Uliel’s confession, but was mentioned only after Ben-Uliel learned some of the things the minor had said in his interrogation. This could weaken Ben-Uliel’s testimony regarding the minor’s involvement in the murders.

Israeli enthusiasts of the murders demonstrated in support of Ben-Uliel outside the courthouse on Tuesday. They confronted Hussein Dawabsheh, whose daughter Reham, son-in-law Sa’ad and grandson Ali were killed in the arson, seeking to torment the grandfather with their loud gloating.

“Ali burned, Ali is on the grill,” they screamed. Activist Yitzhak Gabbay, who was convicted of setting fire to a bilingual school in Jerusalem and served a three-year prison term, took part in the protest.

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