Israel’s Supreme Court upholds Jewish man’s murder conviction in Duma case

Supreme Court rejects appeal filed by Israeli man convicted of murdering Arab family in 2015 firebomb attack, dismissing claim that his confession was invalidated by use of torture.

By World Israel News Staff

The Israeli Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Thursday upholding a lower court’s conviction of a Jewish man accused of murdering a Palestinian Arab family in Samaria seven years ago.

Twenty-eight-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel was found guilty in May 2020 by the Lod District Court in central Israel of three counts of murder for the deaths of one-year-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents, Sa’ed Muhammad Hassan Dawabsheh and Riham Hussein Hassan Dawabsheh.

Ben-Uliel was also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson.

The conviction stemmed from an incident on the night of July 31, 2015, when a firebomb was hurled into the Dawabsheh home in the Palestinian Authority-controlled town of Duma, sparking a fire.

While a number of arson cases have been reported in Duma as part of long-running rivalries between families, Hebrew graffiti was found on the exterior of the Dawabsheh home, leading investigators to treat the incident as an act of Jewish terror.

In September of 2020, Ben-Uliel was given three life sentences, with an additional 20 years in prison.

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Attorneys for Ben-Uliel appealed the Lod court’s conviction, petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn the guilty verdict based on the use of “special techniques” during interrogation – including methods some rights groups have claimed amount to torture.

The three Supreme Court justices who heard the appeal – Yitzhak Amit, Yosef Elron, and Shaul Shochat – expressed misgivings about investigators’ use of torture to extract the confession, but nevertheless ruled that Ben-Uliel’s second confession and reenactment of the attack given 36 hours after the first confession remains legally valid.

“There is no doubt” of Ben-Uliel’s guilt,” the judges wrote in their decision Thursday.

Justice Elron noted, however, that he remains “troubled to a certain extent about the future, given the message sent to the investigative bodies in view of this outcome.”

Four years ago, the Lod District Court ruled Ben-Uliel’s initial confession invalid, since it had been obtained via torture. The court also found confessions made by Ben-Uliel’s accomplice, who was under 18 at the time of the arson, were inadmissible.

While Ben-Uliel had remained silent for 17 days after his arrest in 2015, after interrogators used “enhanced techniques,” he confessed to investigators. Thirty-six hours later, he agreed to reenact the firebombing, again confessing to the attack.

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Ben-Uliel’s defense team argued in its appeal to the Supreme Court that while no torture was used during the second confession and reenactment, given the prior measures used against him, the defendant feared further torture and his later confession must also be considered to have been made under duress.