Photo Credit: Courtesy
Judge Ruth Lorch

Over 135 pages, the District Court’s decision in the preliminary trial on the admissibility of the confessions of the two defendants in the Duma arson/murder case, reveal for the first time the court’s repugnance with gory details of that shocking torture of Israeli citizens by the clandestine police, Hakol Hayehudi reported Sunday.

It can still be said that there is indeed a great deal more hidden evidence in the case, and that the description of the torture that was heard in the court—copies of it were leaked to the social networks and disseminated throughout Israel—does not reflect the total suffering experienced by the two prisoners, nor the exceptional physical and mental torture used against them by Shabak interrogators.

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Judges Ruth Lorch, who wrote the verdict, and Zvi Dotan and Dvora Atar who joined her in the decision, kept the details of the torture itself secret, but after two and a half years in which this trial had been conducted in the shadows, the lengthy verdict open for publication many details and several testimonies that can be revealed to the public for the first time.

A few months after the house in Duma village had been torched, and three members of the Dawabshe family were burned to death, Shabak and the police went about rounding up numerous suspects from among the youth of Samaria. The first to be arrested was the minor, and shortly thereafter his co-defendant in the case, Amiram Ben Uliel was picked up. Ben Uliel was accused of the arson that turned into a triple homicide, and the minor was accused of being his accessory. A number of other suspects were arrested and then released.

The minor and Ben Uliel were prevented from meeting their lawyers for 21 days, the maximum period permitted by law. Ben Uliel remained silent for 17 days until the torture began, sanctioned by the Attorney General and the Supreme Court using the argument that he and the minor were “ticking bombs,” although at no point did Shabak suspect or pursue an investigation of other activists who were planning or carrying out more arson.

Ben Uliel endured two torture interrogations, one that lasted seven hours and 20 minutes, between 11:40 PM and 7:00 AM, and the other for about five hours on the same day, between 7:00 and 11:55 PM.

In his first “special means” interrogation, Ben Uliel admitted to setting fire to the house in Duma. In the second interrogation, which was carried out close to when the ban on his seeing a lawyer was to be lifted after 21 days, he repeated his confession, but did not give the names of his accomplices, even as he was being tortured severely.

The minor was also interrogated under torture by the Shabak close to the time he was to be allowed to see a lawyer. He underwent three torture interrogations, during which he confessed to property offenses before the Duma case, and to participation in the arson in Duma. The Shabak did not include the last confession, most likely because he could not provide real details about the event in question. Instead they indicted him as an accessory, pinning him as the mastermind of the arson attack.

The verdict describes how after the minor had been returned from one of his court hearings during the 21-day interrogations, where he pleaded with the judge to stop the torture, but to no avail, he was left in his cell for about 6 hours, and during that time he cut his veins. The defense described this as a suicide attempt, whereas the State Prosecutor’s Office claimed that it was a “manipulation.” In any event, there is no dispute according to the court verdict—and contrary to the Shabak’s denial, that a minor under the age of 17 has reached a point where, due to the violence of his interrogators, he cuts his own veins.

In the minor’s complaint to the Shabak Ombudsman cited in the verdict, the minor says: “I closed my eyes during the interrogation with the interrogator Assaf, we were just the two of us in the room, he was typing or something, and then he got up from his chair, approached me, grabbed my head and shoulders with his hands and kneed me in the Chest. My breathing stopped for a few seconds Beyond that, during the same interrogation he punched me in the leg and the knee, and kicked me in the thigh so I won’t sit cross-legged. The kicks were not as strong as the knee, but they, too, hurt me.”

In addition to the physical torture, the verdict clearly indicates that exceptional mental torture was carried out which included humiliations, prolonged interrogations on Shabbat, forcing the prisoners to hear women’s singing, humiliating statements about close family members, and so much more.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett recently stated that there were no sexual harassment involved in the interrogations, but Shabak interrogators admitted in court that the detainees were sexually humiliated routinely. Their full testimonies were not released by the court, so at this point it is not clear whether they corroborated the testimonies of the defendants about blatant sexual harassment.

The minor testified: “All the interrogations are accompanied by touches. The one has to fix me in place, he touches my leg. It’s not just touching, they are putting his hand on me and doing all the things that bothered me, especially in light of their conversations and the subjects they talked about. For example, [Shabak interrogator] Roni said that he would not mind having a sexual experience with a man, and at the same time he puts his hand on me.”

The minor testified that “in the interrogations there’s a lot of insulting, curses, obscenities, in all respects, on all subjects, at the most explicit level possible, on the part of the interrogators, disgusting descriptions of repugnant things. […] They were talking about experiences and fantasies and things in words, which in my opinion they did intentionally because I am a religious person.”

The minor testified how Roni humiliated him, describing his family in explicit sexual detail. He also explained in great detail how his family members are screaming as they are set on fire.

In their testimony, the Shabak interrogators admitted to using a female officer who touched the detainees. They told the court that they were not aware of any problem Jewish men might have with women’s singing, which the judge described as feigned innocence.

The judge concluded: “It is sufficient to state that these were physical means, the use of which creates real physical pain, as well as significant psychological pressure, in part because of the lack of knowledge of whether these measures will be withdrawn or escalated.”

She pointed to a legislation which is currently being worked on in the Knesset, “which proposes that a confession that was made under torture be inadmissible, and in which torture is defined as ‘an act that intentionally causes severe pain or severe physical or mental suffering.'”

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