Prosecution asks defendant to be given 5.5 years behind bars

State reaches plea bargain with teen accomplice in Duma terror attack

Court drops murder conspiracy charge and instead convicts far-right activist only of planning 2015 arson along with other attacks

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali (Channel 2 screenshot)
Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali (Channel 2 screenshot)

The accomplice in the Duma terror attack reached a plea agreement with the State Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday in which he avoided conviction for planning the murders of the three Palestinians killed in the July 2015 firebombing.

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, who were murdered in the attack.

Approved by a Lod District Court judge, the 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. However, the indictment was corrected to specify the crime as arson, and not murder, as had originally been the case.

An official for the prosecution told The Times of Israel that the state agreed to the plea arrangement because the teenager was not present during the attack itself, for which another alleged Israeli extremist, Amiram Ben-Uliel, stands accused.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)

“For an unknown reason, the accused did not succeed in [making it to] the planned meeting between the defendant and the other [defendant] that night,” the official quoted the indictment as stating.

In addition to planning the Duma firebombing, the agreement also saw the far-right activist admit to having carried out three other hate crimes targeting Palestinians: torching a garage next to a residence in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba, torching a taxi in the nearby town of Yasuf, and slashing tires on cars in the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

The State Prosecutor’s Office requested that the suspect be sentenced to five and a half years of actual jail time. Deducted from the sentence would be the time the teenager already spent behind bars — about two and a half years.

The prosecution official who spoke to The Times of Israel said the plea bargain does not relate to the one count of membership in a terror organization included in the original indictment. She said the state still intends to convict the teen of that charge and that proceedings are ongoing.

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)

Last July, the Lod District 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.

The court also quashed a number of confessions given by Ben-Uliel, the main suspect in the Duma attack, who is charged with having hurled the lethal firebomb at the Dawabsha home. However, the court ruled that the remaining admissions of guilt, which were not given under duress, could be used in the case against him.

No such plea agreement was offered to Ben Uliel.

Hussein Dawabsha, whose son, daughter-in-law and grandson were killed in the attack, told the court that he did not accept the agreement, arguing that what had prevented the accomplice from not meeting Ben Uliel at the rendezvous point on the night of the attack had not been a feeling of regret but rather the fact that he had fallen asleep.

Ahmed Dawabsha, the sole survivor of a West Bank arson attack in Duma village, is carried by his grandfather Hussein at the Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel on Friday, July 22, 2016 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Adi Keidar, an attorney from the Honenu legal aid organization representing the accomplice, said the plea deal marked a victory for his client, asserting that the corrected indictment was “completely different” from the original one and showed that the teen was “completely unconnected to the murder in Duma.”

He said the defense agreed to the deal on the basis that it sought to “heal the physical and psychological wounds inflicted on the convict at the hands of the Shin Bet interrogators.”

Keidar said he expected Ben Uliel to be acquitted in the murders as well.

For it’s part, the Shin Bet pointed out that as part of the plea agreement the accomplice admitted his role in the Duma attack, something he had refused to do throughout the entire investigation.

The security service said the state would request a longer prison term for the suspect “in light of the harsh outcome of the conspiracy to which he confessed.”

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