Court releases four of five suspects in Aisha Rabi killing to house arrest
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Court releases four of five suspects in Aisha Rabi killing to house arrest

Lawyers representing Israeli teens call for probe into Shin Bet’s interrogation tactics; 5th suspect to be continue to be held

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Right wing activists clash with police outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)
Right wing activists clash with police outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)

Acceding to a request from the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court agreed on Thursday to release to house arrest four of the five Israeli suspects in the October murder of a Palestinian woman.

The Shin Bet as well as the lawyers representing the teens confirmed the ruling, which was made behind closed doors.

The remand of the fifth suspect was extended until Tuesday.

The teens are suspected of “terror offenses, including murder,” the agency said earlier this week, after months in which a gag order had prevented publication of information on the case.

“We, of course, are happy about [the police’s request], but we will demand an investigation into how the Shin Bet reached such a situation in which it so harshly investigated innocent individuals, while completely ignoring their cries as well as the cries of their families and attorneys,” said lawyer Hay Haber, who accused the security agency of violently interrogating his clients.

The Shin Bet has flatly denied claims of misconduct, saying its investigation is being closely monitored by the State Prosecutor’s Office. It released a statement shortly after the court’s ruling accusing “interested parties” of “a deliberate and ongoing effort… to obstruct the course of the investigation, including the dissemination of false information regarding the conduct of the investigation.”

A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)

For their part, the suspects’ lawyers argued that the court’s decision to conditionally release their clients proved that the Shin Bet and the police’s nationalistic crimes unit did not have evidence against them.

“My client endured 12 days of severe interrogations that caused him trauma, and now the question must be asked: Who will compensate him for such trauma?” said Itamar Ben Gvir, a lawyer representing another suspect that police requested be released.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet partially lifted a gag order on the case and announced that it had arrested the five, students from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the Rehelim settlement, on suspicion on involvement in the killing of Aisha Rabi, a 47-year-old Palestinian mother of eight.

Rabi was struck on the head by a large rock on the evening of October 12 as she traveled by car to her West Bank home with her husband and daughter. She was pronounced dead at a Nablus hospital a short time later.

Rabi’s husband, who was driving the targeted vehicle, said he heard a small group of Hebrew speakers at the scene shortly after the rock was thrown.

(From L-R) Attorneys Itamar Ben Gvir, Adi Keidar and Hay Haber speak in a press conference outside the chambers at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on January 6, 2019. (Courtesy)

The Shin Bet claimed in a statement earlier this week that none of the suspects lamented their treatment while in Shin Bet custody in appearances before a judge, but a copy of the protocol obtained by The Times of Israel confirmed the Honenu legal aid group’s assertion that one of the suspects alerted the lawyer to what he considered violent interrogation tactics.

All five suspects were, for a time, deprived of the right to meet with their attorneys, though they since have been able to do so. Israeli law allows authorities to delay an attorney visit for a terrorism suspect by up to 21 days, subject to court appeal.

Israeli investigations into Jewish terrorism — as such cases are often referred to — are highly sensitive. Left-wing activists have accused authorities of dragging their feet in such cases in comparison to investigations into Palestinian attacks, while far-right Israelis say Jewish terror suspects have undergone coercion and torture.

Police on Wednesday raided the Pri Haaretz yeshiva and summoned nearly 80 students for questioning at the Ariel Police Station, Honenu reported. The legal aid group said authorities have already questioned some 30 students at the yeshiva.

Honenu also claimed the raid had been illegal because police failed to present a warrant.

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