A plea bargain is going to be signed on Sunday with the minor A, the co-defendant in the Duma village arson-murder case that took place July 31, 2015, when three members of an Arab family perished.
According to the plea bargain, the minor will confess to some price tag violations – setting fire to a car in the Arab village of Yasuf, burning down a garage/storeroom in the village of Aqraba, and puncturing car tires in Beit Safafa, Jerusalem, while being completely absolved of any connection to the murders in the Duma case.
According to a report in HaKol HaYehudi, the minor will confess to conspiring to plan an arson the night prior to the incident in Duma, and the indictment also explicitly states that the planning on the part of the minor did not take shape and was not actually carried out.
In addition, the State Attorney’s Office repealed the serious accusations against A in connection with the torching of the Church of the Dormition and other charges.
The plea bargain with A set the maximum sentence for the price tag violations at five years, and the defense will seek to settle for time served – about three years. It is possible that within a few months the minor will be released.
The plea bargain with A follows the acquittal of Yinon Reuveni and the minor Z who confessed to several serious price tag accusations. All three confessions, as well as parts of the confession of the last remaining defendant, Amiram Ben-Uliel, were thrown out by the courts after the judges determined that they had been given under physical torture.
Ben-Uliel may also benefit from what appears to be the collapse of the Shin Bet case, even with some of his testimony being kept by the court. In three years, the Shin Bet and the prosecution have not been able to synchronize the various and contradictory eyewitness accounts of the Duma event. Those had four Jews whose faces were covered escaping from the village towards Ma’aleh Efraim and two suspects, faces covered, standing near the burning house. The discrepancies between these much publicized versions of the event and Ben Uliel’s confession account for the delays during which none of the witnesses were allowed to take the stand.
In January 2016, a senior defense official told Israel Radio that it would have been impossible to “solve” the Duma village arson murder case without the use of torture and continuous physical pressure. According to the official, who wished to remain anonymous, all the actions taken against the minor were approved by the Supreme Court.
On the week following the arson in Duma, President Reuven Rivlin took a firm position against the arsonists, declaring: “My people have chosen terror.” He did so without an ounce of proof and should apologize. He won’t, of course, judging by his follow-up comment in December 2015, when he explained: “What happened in Duma wasn’t an ‘unfortunate incident’ or a ‘tragedy’ – it was a horrific crime. When I said ‘my people have chosen terror’ I naturally meant some of my people, the perpetrators, but saying ‘some of my people’ implies they are out there and we didn’t know about it. It’s clearly shirking responsibility.”
Now the president needs to explain why some of his clandestine police officers spent three years brutally abusing an underage boy who may never fully recover.
UPDATE: The Shin Bet has responded to Israeli media reports on the plea bargain, and stated that in the plea bargain the minor won’t be connected to the murders in Duma, but will indicate a conspiratorial connection to an arson attack in Duma.