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Supreme Court rejects appeal by Israeli killer of Palestinian family in arson attack

Judges say ‘no doubt’ Amiram Ben Uliel carried out ‘shocking and deeply disturbing’ crime in Duma in 2015, express concern ruling may be seen as validation of interrogation methods

Amiram Ben Uliel, convicted of the Duma arson murder in July 2015, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed, attends a hearing on his appeal, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Amiram Ben Uliel, convicted of the Duma arson murder in July 2015, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed, attends a hearing on his appeal, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The man convicted of killing three members of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma in an arson attack in 2015 will remain in prison after the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected his appeal.

Amiram Ben Uliel was sentenced to three life sentences plus 20 years for the deadly firebombing in which Riham and Saad Dawabsha were killed along with their 18-month-old son, Ali Saad. Only the couple’s eldest son, Ahmed, survived, with terrible burns; he was 5 years old at the time.

In a strongly worded ruling, the court said that there was “no doubt” Ben Uliel had committed the “shocking and deeply disturbing” attack on the Palestinian family’s home.

“No words will reflect the magnitude of the horror. These actions contradict and conflict with all moral values ​​and Jewish culture, which teaches patience and tolerance. Hatred of members of other religions, as well as racism for its own sake, is not a path of Judaism,” the ruling read.

“The murder warrants deep soul-searching in Israeli society,” added Justice Yitzhak Amit.

The court said that the decision on Ben Uliel’s appeal was not an easy one to make due to the fact that the confession was extracted using “special measures.” Ben Uliel and his then-teen accomplice have said that they were subjected to torture during their interrogations.

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

Before making their ruling, the justices reviewed tapes of the interrogations.

According to the court, Ben Uliel was arrested and remained silent for 17 days, until “special measures” were used, after which he confessed.

Judge Yosef Elron wrote that he was concerned that rejecting the appeal could send a positive message to the Shin Bet and other security services about the methods used during questioning.

“I will admit that I remain troubled to a certain extent about the future, given the message sent to the investigative bodies in view of this outcome,” Elron wrote.

Responding to Thursday’s ruling, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) said the decision to uphold a confession based on torture showed a “glaring oversight” in the legal system.

“Despite the seriousness of the acts of which Ben Uliel is accused and the deep tragedy inflicted on the Dawabsha family it would have been appropriate for the court to have given decisive weight to the fact that before Ben Uliel confessed to the acts, interrogation methods involving severe and prolonged torture were applied to him, something that is already known to often lead to false confessions from those interrogated for acts which they did not carry out,” the watchdog said, calling for a ban on the use of torture.

According to the court, in September 2015, right-wing extremist Ben Uliel and his teenage accomplice set out to attack Palestinians in the West Bank village of Duma, apparently as revenge for a terror attack in which a settler was shot earlier that month.

The two agreed to meet on the night of the attack. When the younger accomplice failed to show up on time to the rendezvous point, Ben-Uliel decided to carry out the attack on his own.

In this screen capture from a YouTube video uploaded on March 16, 2016, Ahmed Dawabsha is seen recovering from his burns in hospital, holding a Real Madrid sign. (YouTube screen capture)

Under cover of darkness, Ben Uliel lobbed homemade explosives into the home of the Dawabsha family, killing parents Saad, Riham, and their 18-month-old son Ali.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld the charges against Ben Uliel’s accomplice, who has not been named due to the fact that he was a minor at the time of the firebomb attack.

The firebombing, considered one of the most brutal acts of Jewish terror in recent years, led to official promises to crack down on Jewish extremism in the West Bank, though critics say many Jewish terrorists still act with impunity.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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