The primary suspect in a 2015 terror attack in the West Bank village of Duma that killed three members of a Palestinian family waived his right to testify in court on Wednesday, 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,” Amiram Ben-Uliel’s lawyer Yitzhak Bam said, referring to the Lod District Court’s ruling last July in which a number of confessions given by his client were quashed since they were elicited by Shin Bet security service investigators using so-called “enhanced interrogation methods.”
However, the court ruled back then that his 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.
Last month, the state reached a plea deal with the younger accomplice. The 19-year-old, whose name is barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the attack, admitted to having planned the torching of a Palestinian home in the northern West Bank four years ago. However, the indictment against him was amended to make no mention of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha and his parents, Riham and Saad, thereby allowing him to escape conviction for planning the murders of the three Palestinians killed in the firebombing.
The State Prosecutor’s Office requested that the younger suspect be sentenced to five and a half years of actual jail time. Deducted from the sentence would be the time the teenager had already spent behind bars — about two and a half years.
עמירם בן אוליאל, הנאשם ברצח שלושת בני משפחת דוואבשה, מסרב להעיד בבית המשפט pic.twitter.com/vsl0b2aKUe
— Carmel Dangor (@carmeldangor) June 26, 2019
An attorney representing the Dawabsha family told reporters outside the courtroom on Wednesday that Ben-Uliel’s decision not to testify was planned in advance and is part of an effort to delegitimize the current proceedings as the defense prepares to appeal to the Supreme Court against the lower court’s ruling in the pretrial hearing.
Following the statement from the suspect’s attorney, the prosecution called on Ben-Uliel’s wife Oriyan and mother-in-law Nechama Nizri to testify.
In Nizri’s questioning, prosecution attorney Yael Atzmon sought to prove that she knew about Ben-Uliel’s involvement in the Duma attack before she was notified.
Atzmon played a recording of a phone conversation Nizri had had with Oriyan immediately after Ben-Uliel’s arrest.
“A lot of police officers just came, beat him up and jumped on top of him,” Oriyan was recorded saying.
“May God burn them [the police officers]… There was a development in the investigation into the Jewish terror attack, and I’m connecting these things,” Nizri responded, ostensibly referencing the reported headway that the Shin Bet had made in its probe into the Dawabsha murders.
Explaining the recording in court on Wednesday, Nizri said that she hadn’t been implying that Ben-Uliel had been involved in the Duma firebombing, but that the Shin Bet had wrongly arrested her son-in-law for the crime.
Moreover, she claimed that she hadn’t been referring to the Duma attack when she said “Jewish terror,” but rather to general hate crime incidents against Palestinians. Nizri claimed the firebombing had been carried out by neighbors of the Dawabshas as a result of an internal dispute.
Called to the stand after her mother, Oriyan testified that Ben-Uliel had been with her the entire night that the crime had taken place.
“I can remember what Amiram did that night from 10:30 p.m. It never happened that he would come back at such late hours, He would not leave us alone. We had a seven-month-old baby,” she said. “He did not do it. It for sure wasn’t him. There is an injustice being done here.”
Subsequently, Ben-Uliel’s other attorney Asher Ohayon told the court that he planned on submitting a legal opinion arguing that the Hebrew graffiti found at the scene was not done in his client’s handwriting.