An attorney for Amiram Ben-Uliel, a Jewish extremist who earlier this year allegedly confessed to the firebombing murder of a Palestinian family last July, accused the Shin Bet security services of torturing his client by “stretching his limbs like in the [Spanish] Inquisition.”
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Yoram Sheftel said the Shin Bet’s Jewish section had extracted false testimony from Ben-Uliel through the use of illegal methods, the Maariv daily reported.
“It should be clear that all results [in the Duma case], especially regarding the detainee Ben-Uliel, came about as a result of barbaric investigation measures that included severe torture,” Sheftel said, according to the right-leaning, Israel National News site. “The only criminals with regard to intentionally causing damage to bodily matter are the investigators and those who sent them.”
Ben-Uliel, 21, of Jerusalem, along with an unnamed minor, were indicted in early January in the July 31, 2015, firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma. The attack led to the immediate death of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha and the deaths weeks later of parents Riham and Saad. Five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel with severe burns, and faces a long rehabilitation.
Ben-Uliel was indicted for murder; the minor, who is not alleged to have directly participated in the fire-bombing, was charged as an accomplice.
The indictments marked a key breakthrough in the case, which shocked Israelis and led to unprecedented measures against Jewish terror suspects, including a cabinet vote to extend to Israeli citizens counterterrorism practices such as detention without trial.
In an audio recording obtained by Channel 2 last month, Ben-Uliel himself was heard claiming that he was tortured into confession by Shin Bet interrogators. Among the methods utilized by the Shin Bet security service alleged by Ben-Uliel in the recording were beatings, as well as psychological pressure, including threats and forcing him to listen to women singing.
In the recording, Ben-Uliel told of being made to sit with his back at a 45-degree angle for long periods, as well as “threats, shouts, screams, beatings, slaps.” He said he eventually caved to the pressure, and was willing to say anything in order for his interrogation to stop.
“I started making stuff up. A whole story, how I went and prepared and planned,” he said in the recording. “I told them I planned it with [name], and I met with him, we carried out reconnaissance and all sorts of things. Not exactly, but all sorts of things I understood from them [the interrogators],” he recalled.
The alleged abuses came after the Shin Bet obtained approval from then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein to classify Ben-Uliel as a “ticking bomb,” allowing them to use certain kinds of torture on the grounds that authorities believed new attacks were being planned.
Politicians across almost the entire political spectrum backed the Shin Bet, which they said was acting according to the law, though Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reportedly met the family of one Jewish terror suspect who alleged torture.
Ben-Uliel’s testimony, along with the allegations of his attorneys, marks the likely central argument of the defense in his trial, namely, that his confession was inadmissible as it was obtained by torture.
Due to the sensitive nature of the case and the decision of the Lod District Court to hear the case behind closed doors, the Shin Bet is not permitted to comment publicly on the testimony. The agency told Channel 2 in a statement that, “the interrogation of the individual in question was carried out according to the stipulations of the law, and under the supervision and constant oversight of all relevant authorities.”
A source close to the investigation said Ben-Uliel’s testimony and reenactment at the scene of the crime included a great many details that were never made public, and could only have been known to those who were there, according to Channel 2.