Duma Arson: Far More Than Reasonable Doubt

Illustration: "Long live King Messiah" graffiti, on the wall of Dawabsheh home in Duma by Zakaria Sadah RHR (Rabbis for Human Rights) - Own work [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia

Illustration: "Long live King Messiah" graffiti, on the wall of Dawabsheh home in Duma by Zakaria Sadah RHR (Rabbis for Human Rights) - Own work [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia

Despite shocking inconsistencies in the evidence, interrogations and confessions, a young man has been convicted of a murderous arson attack and now faces life in prison. Very serious doubts have been raised in regard to the verdict.

The case started in the Arab village of Duma, when a home was firebombed in late July 2015, resulting in the deaths of three people. Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the house.

Amiram Ben Uliel (Photo credit_ Free use via Honenu)

Five months later, Amiram Ben-Uliel, was indicted for the murder, despite the fact that he was not identified by witnesses. Indeed, his wife testified that he was with her that entire night. Nevertheless, the authorities arrested him and proceeded to torture him, subjecting him to extreme duress. Further, he was not allowed to meet with legal representation for many days.

The courts allowed the torture — the highly controversial ‘special interrogations’ — on the basis of the claim by the Shin Bet security service that he was a "ticking time bomb" and that information was needed immediately in order to prevent an imminent serious crime. This despite the fact that he was not a member of any organization and was already in police custody. Yet this ruse was presented to the court which granted permission to isolate and torture him. The torture went on for days and nights demanding a confession.

He and a number of young people — including minors — who lived in proximity to the village, were rounded up, interrogated, and subjected to torture. One of the minors agreed to identify Ben-Uliel as the culprit after extreme torture. Sections of the minor’s confession were later thrown out of court.

Under severe beatings and the threat of continuing torture, Ben-Uliel confessed to the crime. He was ordered to "reenact" the crime and was taken to the scene by the same man that personally tortured and tormented him for days and nights, even though the law insists that the interrogator not be present at the reenactment of the crime. This law was ignored.

It is highly probable that Ben-Uliel knew he was expected to satisfy the expectations of his tormentor and so did his best to comply. They brought him to the burnt-out house and there he told them that yes, he had thrown the firebomb into the house after opening up the window.

But the evidence from the crime scene is incompatible with his confessions.

Consider the following: The targeted house is in the middle of the village. Why would an arsonist target a random house in the middle of the village thereby endangering himself and his ‘operation’ as he made his way through the entire village before — and after — the attack? Wouldn't it have been safer, and thus logical, to target an exterior house and escape that much quicker?

Also consider that in the same village shortly prior to this attack, there were multiple incidents of firebombing. Though these were initially blamed on Jews, they were proven to be internal clan conflicts. Is it not possible that the July fire was another example of this village's pattern of firebombing? Indeed, a second house in Duma was firebombed that same night.

A Duma resident and neighbor of the victims claimed that Israeli investigators failed to take testimonies from Duma residents. Indeed, he further alleged that Arab arsonists were responsible for both fires in Duma that night.

Even more pertinent, an eye witness saw two people hurling Molotov cocktails towards the house [that was set ablaze in the arson incident]. Two sets of very fresh shoe prints were found at the site, neither of which were identified as those of Ben-Uliel — yet he was charged with acting alone, in contradiction to the eye witness and the footprints.

The defense team showed that the Hebrew graffiti found on the wall of the house was written in two different handwriting styles — neither of which matched Ben-Uliel’s writing.

Ben-Uliel asserts that his confession was forced from him under torture and the threat of resumed torture which is illegal. The defense team is appealing the decision.

Interested readers can contact the defense team at Honenu to support the appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. Email inquiries can be directed here. For those who speak Hebrew, videos detailing the inconsistencies in the interrogation and in the case can be viewed here. Honenu is arranging a Zoom meeting with Amiram Ben Uliel’s wife, Orian, on July 16 at 8 p.m. Jerusalem time, 1p.m. Eastern (US) time. If you wish to submit questions and receive the link to the live interview, please contact honenu.org.il@gmail.com

Shalom Pollack (Photo courtesy the author)

Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel. For information and details of upcoming tours, email him here. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.

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