Israel’s justice minister cleared of charges over meeting with family of Duma arson suspect

Published March 6th, 2016 - 07:00 GMT
Shaked met with the mother of the arson suspect. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Shaked met with the mother of the arson suspect. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Sunday dismissed a complaint against Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for meeting with family members of a suspected Jewish "terrorist" charged with a deadly arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank last year.

A spokesperson from Shaked’s office confirmed to The Times of Israel that the meeting with the underage suspect’s family — raised in a complaint by opposition Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg — was not considered a breach of ethics.

New York-based Jewish newspaper The Forward reported in late December that Shaked met the week before with the mother of the American-Israeli minor suspected of acting as an accomplice in the July 2015 terror attack that killed three members of the Dawabsha family.

The Forward said the meeting took place after the suspect, whose name is barred from publication in Israel due to his age, complained that he had been tortured by the Shin Bet security service during his interrogation.

The suspect’s lawyer, Adi Kedar from the Honenu organization, which mainly handles cases of Israelis accused of extremist crimes, was also present at the meeting, the report said.

The decision comes weeks after the Ethics Committee suspended three Arab MKs for meeting with the families of Palestinian terrorists on February 2.

In recent weeks, 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel, the main suspect in the Duma case, also alleged the Shin Bet used torture and abuse to extract a confession out of him.

Ben-Uliel and the unnamed minor were indicted in early January in the firebomb attack. The attack caused the immediate death of toddler Ali and the deaths in the following weeks of parents Riham and Saad. Five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel with severe burns, and faces a long rehabilitation.

Ben-Uliel was indicted for murder; the minor, who is not alleged to have directly participated in the fire-bombing, was charged as an accomplice.

The indictments marked a key breakthrough in the case, which shocked Israelis and led to unprecedented measures against Jewish terror suspects, including a cabinet vote to extend to Israeli citizens counterterrorism practices such as detention without trial.

Politicians across almost the entire political spectrum, including Shaked, backed the Shin Bet, which they said acted in accordance with Israeli law.

“The Shin Bet has acted within the framework of the law, accompanied by court orders,” Shaked said in December. “Some of the stories [of unnecessary force] spread in recent days have no connection to reality.

  1. Ben-Uliel’s testimony, along with the allegations of abuse, marks the likely central argument of the defense in his trial, namely, that his confession was inadmissible as it was obtained under torture.

According to a recent report on Israel’s Channel 2 television, a source close to the investigation said Ben-Uliel’s testimony and reenactment at the scene of the crime included a great many details that were never made public, and could only have been known to those who were there.

By Tamar Pileggi


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