Analysis: Is the Duma case full of holes or does Ben-Uliel face jail time?

Ben-Uliel apparently confessed to the Shin Bet, but retracted before the police.

January 5, 2016 03:47
2 minute read.
Duma‏ attack

Amiram Ben-Oliel, charged with racially-motivated murder for the arson attack on the Dawabsha family home in Duma‏. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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A list of questions remain unanswered about the future of the Duma murder case despite the Justice Ministry, police and Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency) indictments and an ensuing public relations onslaught.

Officials say that Amiram Ben-Uliel has confessed to the infamous Duma murders committed in July. A minor defendant, who is accused of conspiracy in the case, also incriminated him and Ben- Uliel performed a reconstruction of the crime, officials say.

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But it’s not exactly an open and shut case. Ben-Uliel apparently confessed to the Shin Bet, but retracted before the police.

He is betting that in court he can stick by his rejection of the charges and the version of events as he told the police. Courts often recognize a confession to police as genuine and tend to feel it trumps any attempt to retract a confession in court.

But Ben-Uliel may have trouble retracting a confession to the Shin Bet.

This is true despite his narrative of the case will likely be that he confessed only under duress and to end the torture. If he was in fact tortured, the Shin Bet may have other problems.

But with Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein personally involved and having approved of enhanced interrogation techniques, there is a strong chance that whatever pressure that was put on Ben-Uliel may fall short of Israel’s legal definition of torture.

He may have trouble nixing his Shin Bet confession. In the past, some courts including IDF military tribunals have convicted despite issues with how a confession may have been extracted, if the overall evidence is strong enough.

Ben-Uliel could still attack the veracity of his confession even if the pressure used against him is found to be legal. Legal or not, it was still pressure, and he can debate whether his confession can be said to be voluntary.

Room for doubt about the suspect’s role also arises over the question of the IDF’s operations log which reportedly suggests that there were multiple attackers in Duma, where parents and a toddler were burned to death and a fourth family member, a young child, survived.

Ben-Uliel’s lawyer has also suggested that the Shin Bet’s line of questioning shows that they, at least at some point, thought there were multiple attackers.

If so, then the indictment of only Ben-Uliel could mean the Shin Bet is missing a significant piece of the puzzle and that could enable Ben- Uliel to argue that maybe the rest of the puzzle is off, too.

But the indecision as to whether or not there were multiple attackers may not help Ben-Uliel in court. It may just mean that he goes down while other accomplices go free.

Any testimony provided by other suspects against Ben-Uliel may help sink him further. He may also be hard put to deny the details he is said to have provided in his confession down to the four windows he tried to throw his firebomb through, before he succeeded.

Judges may also find themselves under extreme pressure to convict unless the case completely unravels.

Even the best judges are human, and the pressure to convict may prove greater than the pressure to acquit.

Coming soon to a courtroom near you – though probably behind closed doors, so you may not get to see much of the trial, until it’s over.

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