Photo of the Year: Menahem Kahana of the French AFP agency shows three Palestinian women standing in the Dawabsheh family home in the West Bank town of Duma, shortly after the arson that led to the deaths of an 18-month-old baby and his parents..
(photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA)
The Supreme Court has ordered that the underage Jewish defendant accused of terrorism in the Duma case be released to house arrest.
The decision by newly appointed Justice Ofer Grosskopf confirmed Thursday’s release order by the Lod District Court and rejected an appeal by the prosecution, which said that the minor was still dangerous and should not be released before the end of the trial.
Despite the defense team’s celebration of the release order, there are still conditions, including an electronic ankle bracelet, court-approved oversight and a prohibition on his communication. Grosskopf rejected an appeal by the defense to remove these conditions.
The order for his release comes two and a half years after the defendant’s arrest and after the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) used enhanced interrogation on him. About one month ago, the same court declared that much of the evidence against him regarding Duma was tainted because of the harshness of the interrogation.
With the exact release date still unclear – but expected to be soon – the young defendant will be kept under house arrest as there are other crimes he is still accused of and the prosecution maintains it may still be able to convict him as a secondary- role player in planning the July 2015 Duma arson murders of three members of the Dawabshe family.
On Thursday, the prosecution issued a statement highlighting that the court had not said the minor was in the clear from allegations that he aided in the murder.
Nonetheless, the minor’s lawyers, the Honenu legal aid group and MK Bezalel Smotrich latched on to the Lod Court’s order and the Supreme Court’s confirmation on Sunday to release the minor from prison as a sign that he had been kept in prison wrongfully.
Grosskopf himself struck a middle ground, saying that the prosecution’s evidence had taken a serious hit, while also saying that the case against the minor for helping plan the Duma attack was still very much alive.
In mid-June, the Lod District Court confirmed that key confessions of the central adult defendant in the Duma case were valid, giving the prosecution a strong chance to convict, while disqualifying key confessions provided by the case’s younger defendant.
That mixed blockbuster decision had – and will have – far-reaching consequences, and disqualified some of the confessions of the main defendant during, and 36 hours after, enhanced interrogation was used on him.
The Justice Ministry and the Shin Bet have a strong lead toward convicting the main defendant, Amiram Ben-Uliel.
Regarding the minor, the decision means that while he will likely face convictions for lesser price-tag attacks, he has a strong chance of acquittal from the Duma case.
The July 2015 arson terrorist attack – which killed Palestinians Sa’ad, Riham and Ali Dawabshe in Duma – and the Shin Bet’s admitted enhanced interrogations of the two Jewish defendants created convulsions in the region and within the Israeli political establishment.
In January 2016, the prosecution filed an indictment against Ben-Uliel for murdering the Dawabshes and against the minor, for conspiracy in planning the murder and other “price tag”-type crimes.
Honenu and the defendants implied that the state was using a gag order to conceal that it tortured the defendants to obtain false confessions.
The Lod court’s decision dissected different pieces of evidence in the case for both Ben-Uliel and the minor with surgical precision.
The court in mid-June said that unlike with Ben-Uliel, the court had not provided videos by the Shin Bet of the minor’s confessions.
Because of that and because the minor in early court proceedings had said he was just telling the Shin Bet what they wanted to hear in order to escape more enhanced interrogation all of the minor’s key confessions, during and after the enhanced interrogation, were disqualified.
For this reason, the minor has a strong chance of acquittal in the Duma case, for which he was only ever indicted for conspiracy to commit murder and not murder like Ben-Uliel.
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