The arson attack on the Palestinian Dawabshe family home killed 18-month-old Ali and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham.
Amiram Ben Uliel, the suspect in the Duma arson murder in July 2015 where three members of the Dawabshe family were killed, arrives to hear his verdict at the court on May 18, 2020
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
The Lod District Court on Monday convicted Amiram Ben-Uliel in the 2015 Jewish terror arson murders of three Palestinians in Duma.
The arson attack on the Palestinian Dawabshe family home killed 18-month-old Ali and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham, and destabilized Israeli-Arab relations throughout the region.
In addition, judges Ruth Lorch, Tsvi Dotan and Dvora Atar convicted Ben-Uliel of two separate counts of attempted murder and two separate counts of arson, but acquitted Ben-Uliel of membership in a terror group.
Despite that acquittal, the court also declared that Ben-Uliel had murdered the Palestinians for ideological reasons – something that could lead to a harsher sentence or to preventing lenient treatment at some later date.
Asher Ohayon, the lead lawyer for Ben-Uliel, vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, saying the court had wrongfully accepted confessions given post-torture.
The court said that even though it disqualified confessions Ben-Uliel gave when the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) used enhanced interrogation on him, his confessions 36 hours later were given freely and compellingly.
Furthermore, the court said it was convinced by Ben-Uliel’s voluntary physical reconstruction of the crime at the scene of the murders.
In addition, the court cited Ben-Uliel’s refusal to testify in his own defense.
The court wrote that, “The defendant described the scene of the crime in extreme detail in his confessions… which was later clarified to be meticulously accurate… the defendant carried out a reconstruction with great accuracy and which was close to identical to his confessions – something which rebuts the claims” that he was guessing or tipped off in the moment by the Shin Bet investigators.
Ohayon responded to a question from The Jerusalem Post about the fact that the Supreme Court has been very accepting of enhanced interrogation confessions during the last three years, saying there was no parallel.
He also said Ben-Uliel had been “tortured far worse than any Palestinian.”
The Dawabshe family responded to the decision saying it is important for justice to be done so “no one else’s lives will be ruined” and destroyed like the three murdered Dawabshes.
Supporters for Ben-Uliel yelled at the court, “How can you convict an innocent person?” and had to be silenced by security guards.
The sentencing arguments hearing was set for June 9 and it is expected that the actual sentencing will occur later in the summer or the early fall.
For months after the murder, the Shin Bet performed a massive manhunt and investigation, but turned up empty-handed.
Former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen has told the Post that he has fundamentally altered the entire approach toward Jewish terrorism against Palestinians, taking a much harder stance and investing far more resources.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon made frequent statements about the severity of the incident, and assured regional partners in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt and globally of their commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
When the Shin Bet finally apprehended Ben-Uliel, then 21, the alleged murderer of the Dawabshes, as well as a minor who was accused of conspiring with him regarding the murders, the situation was viewed as so desperate that they used torture/enhanced interrogation to get the defendants to confess.
This ushered in a whole new side and saga to the case, because suddenly, enhanced interrogation, administrative detention and other extreme measures were being used not only against Palestinians, as in the past, but also against Jews.
Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich and activist Itamar Ben-Gvir have accused the Shin Bet and the prosecution of massive overreaction and injustice in the treatment of Ben-Uliel and the minor.
Joint List Party leader Ayman Odeh and other Arab activists have demanded that harsh justice be meted out to Ben-Uliel, if Israel is to avoid accusations that it cracks down harder on Palestinian terrorism than on Jewish terrorism.