The Lod District Court on Tuesday ruled out the confessions of a young Jewish man accused of setting fire to the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition community on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The youth, Z, was interrogated three years ago on suspicion of arson and suspicion of setting fire to a vehicle and a grain warehouse in the village of Akraba near Shechem.
“From the first moment, the defendant received an alienated treatment by inexperienced interrogators,” Judge Michal Brent wrote in her ruling, noting that “the offenses of which the defendant was accused are serious,” but insisting nevertheless that “the defendant’s right to due process was violated.”
Z, who was tried as a minor, admitted during his interrogation that he was involved in a terrorist infrastructure and committed serious hate crimes, including arson and damage to property. However, the manner in which the Shin Bet and the police special intelligence unit conducted his interrogation, without letting the minor meet an attorney and under physical torture, led to the disqualification of all his confessions.
Tuesday’s ruling is a very serious blow by its own to the Shin Bet and the police. But there’s more: the same ruling could set free Yinon Reuveni, who was convicted on the basis of Z’s confessions regarding a number of incidents, and apparently also the trial of the minor A, who is accused of involvement in the murder of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma, July 31, 2015.
A’s lawyers have claimed that their client was physically tortured, humiliated, threatened and isolated just like Z, and it could be expected that the court would rely on the precedence of disqualifying the case against Z in order to disqualify the case against A for the same reasons.
Two other individuals who should be judged by public opinion are former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein, who demanded that the Supreme Court allow the Shin Bet to use physical torture, humiliation, threats and solitary confinement in order to extract a confession from A in the Duma case, as well as former supreme court justice Yoram Danziger, who gave legal sanction to that shocking injustice.
Z’s attorney, Itamar Ben-Gvir, welcomed Tuesday’s court decision in a statement saying: “Friends, this is an important day for Israeli democracy. For many years, I have been waging a struggle to make people understand that Hilltop Youths also have rights, and their blood is not permitted.”
“In this case, the Shin Bet and the police crossed every boundary, every possible clause in the law. They put a child in an imaginary prison, abused him, threatened him with murder, starved him, humiliated him, threatened to rape him – everything in order to extract from him a fictitious confession,” Ben-Gvir said.
“I am happy that the court today accepted all of our claims, also threw out the results of the incident in Acre prison, and all subsequent confessions, including to the police in the Shin Bet,” he added, noting, “I think that this is a great day for democracy, an important day for the Shin Bet let sink in their understanding that the hilltop youths also have rights and if they violate them, they will ultimately they pay the price.”
Last Thursday, Cannel 2’s “Uvda” program documented one of the methods by which Israeli law enforcement collect testimonies from Jews suspected of committing acts of terrorism and price-tag actions. Police apparently fabricated a fictitious prison in a mock wing of the Acre detention center which was populated entirely by policemen playing the role of detainees, and of medics, in order to extract confessions from the suspected minors, using physical violence and intimidation.