Did the Shin Bet catch the right or wrong people?

Though there is an ongoing debate over whether the minors were mistreated, no one has claimed that the Shin Bet used enhanced interrogation techniques on them.

By
January 14, 2019 02:43
3 minute read.
Hilltop youth held by border patrol

Hilltop youth held by border patrol. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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No one besides the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) knows what evidence they have regarding the killing of Aysha al-Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight, in October.

But there are significant hints – and there will be more hints on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Yoram Cohen, the Shin Bet chief from 2011-2016 – who happens to be a religious Zionist, and is also the man most responsible for obtaining authority to use more aggressive measures in Jewish terrorist interrogations – sought to remind everyone that there is more than meets the eye.

In the forthcoming interview, Cohen detailed some of the behind-the-scenes process of interrogations that went on in the 2015 Duma case and why more aggressive measures were necessary.

He also explained that in both cases, there may be some evidence that can never be revealed, without giving away the organization’s sources and methods.

What we do know is that the security agency arrested three Jewish minors under possible terrorist charges on December 30. The three were not permitted to talk to their lawyers for a week.

Though there is an ongoing debate over whether the minors were mistreated, no one has claimed that the Shin Bet used enhanced interrogation techniques on them.

One of the minors is still in custody until at least Tuesday, after the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court refused to order his release multiple times and the higher Lod District Court rejected his appeals as well.

When the courts hear such detention cases, they are provided with the full classified evidence, including details regarding how the suspect has been treated.

Last Thursday, two of the arrested minors were released from custody to house arrest after being held for almost two weeks. Two other minors were held for five days and also released to house arrest.


The fact that a minor has been held for more than two weeks with support from the courts – and was banned from speaking to his lawyer as well – might suggest that there is strong evidence that connects him to the killing of the Palestinian woman.

Simply put, the courts would not allow the Shin Bet to keep him in custody this long solely for evidence of graffiti price tag attacks.

It is still possible that any indictment may not be for murder, due to an inability to gather sufficient proof that would be admissible in a court of law (as opposed to classified intelligence). But by now, courts would have ordered his release if the evidence and crime were not terror-related. His lawyers say he has not been interrogated in several days, which does raise question marks.

Regarding the other four suspects it is harder to tell. One likelihood is that some or all of the minors were identified on Saturday, October 13, the day after the Palestinian woman was killed, when a group of religious residents of Yitzhar violated the prohibition of driving on Shabbat, and traveled to the minors’ village of Rehalim to coach them about how to resist Shin Bet questioning.

With dozens of minors from the same yeshiva – and the Shin Bet leaking that it had surveillance of the Yitzhar residents’ trip to Rehalim (unclear if with agents in the field or by drone) – it is unlikely that the arrest of those five was random.

Furthermore, the four released remain under house arrest. If no indictment is filed in the near future, it is likely that whatever charges the Shin Bet has against them may be more minor.

If that happens, then the debate over the two who were held for almost two weeks and did not get to see a lawyer will probably change, unless the Shin Bet convinces the prosecutors that the absence of a more serious indictment is due to their being forced to withhold classified intelligence evidence.

If their house arrest is extended beyond Tuesday – or if an indictment relating to something more than a graffiti price tag attack is filed in the near future – then those accusing the Shin Bet of overreacting may need to think again.

The Duma suspects were arrested and an indictment was filed, and it took only slightly over a month. That means that we should know within the next two weeks whether the Shin Bet got the right or wrong people.

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