Sunday, January 3, 2016
Israel indicts two for murdering Dawabshe family
Amiram Ben Uliel (Times of Israel)
Israeli prosecutors filed murder charges on Sunday against a man and a minor for an arson attack in the occupied West Bank that killed three members of a Palestinian family and helped fuel the fiercest eruption of street violence in years.
The attack on July 31 killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents Saad and Riham.
Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, was charged with three counts of racially motivated murder at Lod court near Tel Aviv. A second Jewish defendant, whose name was withheld due to his age, was charged as an accessory.
Defence lawyers said the pair had given false confessions under torture in close-door interrogations, an allegation denied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Shin Bet security agency.
The attack in Duma village and ensuing Israeli investigation laid bare fissures in Netanyahu's coalition government, where one ultra-nationalist partner voiced misgivings about the handling of Jewish suspects.
Thirteen other Israeli Jews, most of them minors, were also indicted for hate crimes, including assaulting a Palestinian, vandalism of Arab property and setting fire to a church.
Referred to in Israel as "price-tag attacks", such offences have usually been carried out in what the attackers say are reprisals for Palestinian violence against Israelis or government curbs on unauthorized West Bank settlement building.
Ben-Uliel, married and a father of a baby girl, recently became more observant, and he and his wife are among the followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland. Those who know him say he is a close friend of Meir Ettinger,the grandson of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who is considered one of the prominent figures in the "Revolt" group that is behind a series of Jewish terror attacks.
Ben-Uliel's wife, Oriyan, said on Sunday that her husband "went through serious and very grave torture, during which they extracted confessions out of him of things he did not do. I saw how they beat him mercilessly right in front of me, and confiscated cameras so there wouldn't be any proof."
"He felt like he was about to die, they were simply without mercy, while he was screaming they beat him and kept on beating him," she continued. "This confession is not worth anything because he didn't do it. I know he was home that night. This entire story is lies and political persecution," Oriyan concluded.
Ben-Uliel parents live in the settlement of Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion, and have not spoken to him since his arrest. His father Reuven is a rabbi at a yeshiva in Karmei Tzur.
In a statement they made on Sunday, his parents said they were "shocked and outraged by the suspicions attributed to our beloved son." "We believe in our son's innocence, which will come to light at court, and hope that the court is exposed to the serious torture he underwent during the weeks of his interrogation," the parents said.
Saad Dawabsheh's brother Naser said he hoped the defendants would receive the maximum penalty, but was skeptical of Israel's seriousness in prosecuting the case.
"We have no trust in the Israeli judiciary. They would not have launched an investigation were it not for the international pressure on them," he said, accusing the government of effectively "support(ing) the terrorism conducted by (West Bank) settlers against our people".
The time it has taken Israel to crack down on the Jewish militants, compared to the speedy and sometimes lethal response by state security forces to similar actions by Arabs, has angered Palestinians, contributing to a wave of stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks against Israelis since Oct. 1.
Twenty-one Israelis and a U.S. citizen have died in the latest bloodshed, a number that will rise if police deem a Tel Aviv shooting that killed two people on Friday as a pro-Palestinian attack. The gunman, an Israeli Arab, is at large.
Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 145 Palestinians, 82 of whom authorities described as assailants. Most of the others were killed in clashes with security forces.