Judge says 'disrespect for a court cannot pass in silence'

Duma terror suspect’s petition denied because he won’t look at women in court

In hearing, judge says he regrets offering solutions to allow Amiram Ben-Uliel, alleged arsonist in deadly attack, to participate in proceedings in line with his extremist views

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Duma terror attack suspect Amiram Ben-Uliel sits in the Lod District Court on June 26, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Duma terror attack suspect Amiram Ben-Uliel sits in the Lod District Court on June 26, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The Lod District Court threw out a petition filed by the primary suspect in the Duma terror attack on Wednesday after the latter refused to raise his head and cooperate with proceedings due to the fact that there were women present in the chambers.

Amiram Ben Uliel, who is suspected of hurling a Molotov cocktail into a home in the West Bank village of Duma in July 2015 killing three members of the Dawabsha family sleeping inside, had petitioned the court against an Israel Prison Service plan to transfer him to a different prison.

In his decision to reject Ben-Uliel’s request out of hand, Judge Ido Dorian-Gamliel wrote that the defendant had refused several offers that would have allowed him to avoid making eye contact with the female typist and lawyer that were in the courtroom.

“I regretted having offered such options that would have excluded women,” Dorian-Gamliel wrote. “Today women will be exiled to the back corner of the courtroom, tomorrow the petitioner will demand that the state be represented only by a male.”

“This disrespect for a court cannot pass in silence,” he added.

A Palestinian police member inspects the damage inside a burned-out house belonging to a key witness to an arson attack last year by Jewish extremists that killed a Palestinian family, in the West Bank village of Duma, after fire broke out in the home in the early hours of March 20, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Ben-Uliel’s attorney, Hay Haber from the Honenu legal aid organization, said that his client had offered to read the petition aloud with his eyes closed but that the judge had refused.

The lawyer recognized the extreme nature of Ben-Uliel’s beliefs but said that the court should not have held that against him in making its decision.

A similar scenario unfolded last June when Ben-Uliel waived his right to testify in court, saying through a statement read by his attorney that he would not cooperate with the “injustice” of the proceedings.

“This is an expression of the sense of injustice done to him in the pretrial hearing during which the court rejected only some of his confessions,” Honenu lawyer Yitzhak Bam read at the time, referring to the Lod District Court’s July 2018 ruling in which a number of confession statements given by his client were quashed since they were elicited by Shin Bet security service investigators using so-called “enhanced interrogation methods.”

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali. All three died when the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, by suspected Jewish extremists, on July 31, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)

However, the court ruled back then that Ben-Uliel’s remaining admissions of guilt, which were not given under duress, could be used in the case against him, even though they came after he was tortured.

According to the indictment against him, Ben-Uliel and a teen accomplice planned to carry out an attack against Palestinians as revenge for a drive-by shooting days earlier in which Israeli civilian Malachy Rosenfeld was killed.

When the younger accomplice failed to show at the rendezvous point in July 2015, Ben-Uliel decided to carry out the attack on his own, the charge sheet says. He entered the Duma village and sprayed Hebrew graffiti on one home, then hurled Molotov cocktails through the windows of a pair of homes. The first building was empty, but in the second slept the members of the Dawabsha family. Eighteen-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha was burned to death along with his parents, Riham and Saad, while 4-year-old Ahmad was seriously injured.

In October, the Lod District Court ruled that the accomplice in the Duma terror attack is a member of a terror organization, tacking the additional charge onto the rap sheet of the now-19-year-old who planned the 2015 firebombing.

A Star of David and the Hebrew word ‘Revenge’ are spray-painted on the walls of a Palestinian home which was burned down by arsonists on July 31, 2015 in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus (Zacahria Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)

The teen, whose name is barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the attack, reached a plea agreement with the State Prosecutor’s Office last May in which he admitted to having planned the torching of the Dawabsha home. The indictment against him was amended to make no mention of the toddler and parents who were killed in the attack.

Approved by a Lod District Court judge, that agreement saw the teenager confess to conspiring to commit a crime motivated by racism — the same count for which he was charged in January 2016. The indictment was corrected to specify the crime as arson, but not murder, as was originally the case.

In July 2019, the court released the defendant to house arrest, less than two months after it threw out several of his confessions because they were extracted under extreme duress by interrogators of the Shin Bet security service.

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