State prosecutors recently closed a case against four Arab residents of Ramle who were detained for three months on suspicion of throwing an incendiary device at the home of a Jewish resident, moderately injuring him, during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May of last year.
Two of the detained men confessed to the deed during their questioning by the Shin Bet security service, with one of them re-enacting it. The two later retracted their confession, and prosecutors decided not to indict them due to the lack of supporting evidence.
The four men were detained at the beginning of this year, following a joint investigation by the police and Shin Bet, in the course of which seven other men were also arrested. They were detained for three months, with two of them confessing to both the Shin Bet and the police.
According to Abed Abu Amer, the attorney for one of the men, they were interrogated “under harsh conditions,” with one of them vomiting during his interrogation, as well as hallucinating before making his confession. Another suspect re-enacted the incident in a manner that accorded with footage on surveillance cameras located in an adjacent street, but he erred in pointing to the building at which the device was thrown.
The incident came to police attention belatedly, since the injured man went to get medical attention on his own, filing a complaint later, online. Investigators were also unable to locate the Molotov cocktail since the injured man had thrown it into a garbage container. Besides this, the team had no documentation of the incident, which made it hard to investigate. According to a source at the State Prosecutor’s Office, there were problems with the confessions as well.
However, a source told Haaretz that methods used by investigators to establish the role of each suspect were unsuccessful, and versions given by the suspects were contradictory. After it was decided to close the case, the suspects were released last month.
Although there was no evidence other than the confessions and the re-enactment, the police and Shin Bet believed this was sufficient for filing an indictment, especially after gathering more evidence.
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“It’s possible that there was missing evidence, sometimes it’s insufficient,” said a police source to Haaretz. “Saying that the police and Shin Bet didn’t work hard enough in an investigation lasting a year is not serious.”
Prosecutors believed the chances of conviction were low since confessions on their own, in conditions prevailing at the Shin Bet, which could include torture, would not be sufficient to persuade the court. Yonatan, the citizen who was injured in the incident, told Army Radio that closing the file was infuriating. “This is incompetence on the part of police and prosecutors; there’s no one to rely on.”
According to the law, a court can use a confession as evidence only if the accused does not dispute the fact that it was given freely and voluntarily, even if it was obtained after intense interrogation under detention. A jurist source told Haaretz that courts view with suspicion cases in which confessions are the main evidence, especially when confessions are made under interrogation, affected by the pressure exerted on the accused.
Former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner has talked in the past about the problems of confessions as key evidence. In an article she wrote that “the smaller the weight given to a confession, the more additional evidence is required.”