Primary Suspect in West Bank Arson to Be Charged With Murder Next Week

Deputy attorney general meets suspects, says they have not complained to him about torture.

Supporters of the suspects in the West Bank arson case gather outside the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court, December 28, 2015.
Moti Milrod

The primary suspect in the West Bank firebombing case is to be charged with murder in the coming days, according to a declaration submitted to a central Israeli court by state prosecutors on Wednesday.

The prosecution informed the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court that it intends to submit an indictment within five days. The declaration did not provide further details on the charges.

The prosecutors have yet to decide on the charges which are to be brought against another minor suspected of planning and carrying out the attack. The assessment is that he will also be charged with murder.

In the end of July, the home of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma was torched. The blaze killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents, Saad and Riham. A second boy, Ahmed Dawabsheh, was wounded in the attack. A witness said he saw four people escaping the scene toward the Maale Efraim settlement. 

A number of arrests in the case were made in November.

The wife of one of the suspects in the West Bank arson case at the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court, December 30, 2015.
Moti Milrod

Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Matters Raz Nizri, who met the suspects in the case earlier this week, said Wednesday that they are in sound physical and mental states. The meeting  took place after the suspects' lawyers complained on their clients' behalf that they had been tortured during their interrogation. 

Nizri made the statement in response to a request made by attorney Adi Keidar, who is representing some of the suspects. 

Nizri noted that the discussions with the detainees were held in private, in each of the detainees' own cell, without the presence of jail guards or investigators from the Shin Bet.

"At the beginning of every conversation, we presented ourselves as people from the Justice Ministry seeking to assess the conditions under which they were detained and imprisoned, and we asked the detainee if he had complaints or claims of any kind or matters that needed to be addressed. It should be noted that at the beginning of every conversation with a detainee, we made it clear that we had no intension of discussing the subjects of the investigation themselves, evidentiary material or their involvement in the events under investigation, but only the conditions of their detention and various complaints," he stated.

Nizri hinted that he rejected the claims of the lawyers regarding the use of unreasonable means in the investigation.

"Our impression is that the physical and mental condition of the detainees is sound and that there is a substantial discrepancy between the complaints that we heard directly from them and some of what was claimed publicly on their behalf." The meetings were documented and the report about the visit will be passed along for consideration by the Shin Bet and the prison service, Nizri added.

Keidar, who is a lawyer affiliated with Honenu, which provides legal defense to right-wing activists, had the following response to Nizri's letter: "The deputy attorney general's letter was leaked even before it reached our desk. In his comments, Mr. Nizri continues to inappropriately use messages that he was directed to state to cover for the violence committed with his approval. The goal of the official visitors was directed to other needs, and Mr. Nizri's appearance in an uncoordinated [visit] to the suspects was carried out in a further [effort] to legitimize the use of violence, which is improper pursuant to every law and treaty." 

One detainee who had been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in the Duma murders was released to house arrest earlier this week, after pursuit of all the substantial suspicions against him came to naught. Nevertheless, the police announced that they would file an indictment against him for assaulting Palestinians.

The police submitted an affidavit on the matter and sought to have his detention extended until an indictment would be filed. The request was denied, however, and he was placed under house arrest. 

The suspect, 18, who frequented the West Bank Baladim outpost, was arrested by the Shin Bet a month ago and was barred access to his lawyer for 18 days. He was investigated on suspicion of involvement in the Duma firebombing, and though those suspicions have now been dispelled, in the course of the investigation, it became apparent that he had been involved two years ago in a brawl in which he, along with others, allegedly assaulted a Palestinian near Baladim.