Main Duma Jewish terrorism defendant refuses to testify

The conviction of his co-defendant reduced the minor’s connection to the actual attack, while finding that he was involved in surveillance and some aspects of the plot.

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June 26, 2019 20:16
4 minute read.
Main Duma Jewish terrorism defendant refuses to testify

‘REVENGE!’ PROCLAIMS the Hebrew graffiti on the burnt Dawabshe house in Duma, allegedly set alight in 2015 by Jewish terrorists.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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Lawyers for the main Duma Jewish terror defendant, Amiram Ben-Uliel, told the Lod District Court on Wednesday that he is refusing to testify.

Ben-Uliel is accused of murdering three members of the Palestinian Dawabshe family in July 2015 by setting fire to their house.

Ben-Uliel’s lawyers said that he was refusing to testify to protest the court’s earlier ruling in which it invalidated some of his confessions to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), but validated others.

Usually courts hold a refusal to testify against the defendant, although there are some exceptional cases where defendants obtain acquittals despite a refusal to testify.

The lawyers have been fighting with the Shin Bet for three years about whether his confessions were coerced, since the agency used enhanced interrogation methods part of the time.

Ben-Uliel did testify during the mini-trial over whether his confession was valid, but that testimony did not address all the issues in play in the case.

His wife, Orion, did testify on Wednesday and tried to give him an alibi, saying he was sleeping beside her all night, along with their baby. However, Orion did not have any external evidence that he was with her, and being his spouse, the court will think hard about the credibility of her alibi.

The defense also announced that it will bring a handwriting specialist to attack the idea that Ben-Uliel could have been the spray-painter from the Duma attack.

In May, Ben-Uliel’s co-defendant, a minor, was convicted as part of a plea deal.

The conviction both reduced the minor’s connection to the Duma attack compared with the original indictment, while finding that he was involved in surveillance and some aspects of the Duma plot.

In December, a top police official testified publicly for the first time about the moments when the alleged Duma murderer reconstructed his crime.

In the first major open-door hearing of the trial, senior police official Erez Amouyel gave the first public recounting to the court of how he brought Ben-Uliel back to Duma on December 20, 2015.

The reconstruction occurred after Ben-Uliel was exposed to enhanced interrogation by the Shin Bet and had confessed to the crime.
Ben-Uliel and a minor defendant, whose name is under gag order, have argued that their confessions were invalid and coerced.

IN JUNE of last year, the court ruled that key confessions of Ben-Uliel were valid despite the enhanced interrogation, while invalidating some of them as well as most of the minor’s confessions.

In December, Amouyel told the court that he approached the Palestinian village with a driver, two police investigators, the chief Shin Bet investigator “Miguel” and Ben-Uliel.

He said that Miguel asked Ben-Uliel to remove his yarmulke to avoid causing an incident of public disorder during the reconstruction and that he refused.

Next, he said that they walked with Ben-Uliel for two to three minutes into the center of the village and to the Dawabshe house that was burned.

Amouyel described how Ben-Uliel knew the house well and described second by second exactly what he had done, which led to the family members burning to death.

The police official added that prior to conducting the reconstruction of the crime with Ben-Uliel, he had not been told what the defendant would say, and merely knew from the Shin Bet that he had confessed.

Ben-Uliel’s lawyer, Asher Ohayon, repeatedly objected at that December hearing to Amouyel’s testimony, saying that its content had not been fully revealed to the defense, and that in any event, the police had submitted a summary of the reconstruction, which made Amouyel’s description unnecessary.

The court eventually asked state prosecutor Yael Atzmon to move on to other aspects of Amouyel’s testimony.

When Ohayon cross-examined Amouyel, it appeared that his primary goal was to convince the court that Amouyel or other police officers had planted ideas about details in his head to share with them during the reconstruction.

If this were true, it would violate police procedure, which emphasizes that police conducting a reconstruction should themselves not know too many details of the case and should allow the defendant to naturally share what they know without undue influence.
Ohayon battled with Amouyel over whether he had remained as ignorant of the case’s details as he claimed, and whether he had influenced Ben-Uliel.

Ben-Uliel’s lawyer also tried to confuse Amouyel about various details of the case, including disputes about footprints in the area, whether the minor was present during the crime or merely helped plan the crime, and details relating to an alleged vehicle used to drive to and from Duma by the perpetrator.

Ohayon’s goal during that line of questioning was to try to undermine the credibility of Amouyel’s testimony generally, and of his testimony that Ben-Uliel’s reconstruction of the crime sharing details that only the perpetrator could have known as proof of his guilt.

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