Israeli court says ‘physical pressure’ of minor invalidates confessions

Family members of Ali Saad Dawabsheh outside their home in a West Bank Palestinian village after an arson attack that killed the 18-month-old boy, July 31, 2015. Jewish extremists are suspected of setting the fire. (Oren Ziv/Getty Images)

Family members of Ali Saad Dawabsheh outside their home in a West Bank Palestinian village after an arson attack that killed the 18-month-old boy, July 31, 2015. Jewish extremists are suspected of setting the fire. (Oren Ziv/Getty Images)

(JTA) – An Israeli court ruled invalid confessions from a minor in the deadly firebombing of a Palestinian family’s home in the West Bank, saying they were acquired due to physical pressure exerted by authorities.

The Central District Court in Lod let stand the major confessions of the main defendant in the 2015 Duma village bombing that killed three members of the Dawabsha family, but ruled that some other confessions extracted from Amiram Ben-Uliel were made due to painful physical pressure.

The court said that Ben-Uliel’s admission of planning and committing the attack was usable since it was made well after the end of the physical pressure and was “given willingly.” It declined to rule on whether the pressure during the interrogation by the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, was torture or what the agency calls “enhanced interrogation.”

Since the court found that the confession extracted from the unnamed minor defendant was not admissible due to the duress, the prosecution may have to throw out the case. He reportedly did make admissible statements about other price tag incidents against Palestinians, for which he still may be prosecuted.

The firebombing on July 31, 2015, killed Riham and Saad Dawabsha and their toddler son, Ali Saad Dawabsha. Ahmed Dawabsha, then five, survived the attack but required months of treatment for his burns. He now lives in Duma with his extended family.

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