False confession revealed in Duma arson case

Transcriptions of ISA interrogation show after AG gave torture permission, minor suspect confessed - but wasn't indicted.

Ari Yashar ,

Duma protesters stage ISA torture (file)
Duma protesters stage ISA torture (file)
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Transcriptions of the interrogation proceedings in the lethal Duma arson case were released on Thursday night, revealing that one minor suspect was forced into making a false confession due to the brutal torture used against him.

The transcriptions were received by Channel 10, and revolve around the case of A., a 17-year-old from Samaria. Under torture he admitted to committing the arson last July - but he was not indicted for doing so, showing how the torture induced false confessions.

Officials including Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) had admitted prior to the confessions under torture that there was no evidence against the suspects.

A. was held in an Israeli Security Agency (ISA) facility in the north, and initially interrogated by an agent given the name Roni who told him: "you are the central suspect in committing the attack in Duma."

In response, the 17-year-old laughed. For several days he continued to keep silent or else sing in defiance.

But then two weeks later, ISA head Yoram Cohen contacted Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and received unusual permission to use physical force against the suspects.

The granting of permission to torture was revealed in late December by sources involved in the case, who told Haaretz that Weinstein had indeed given his approval for the brutal torture three weeks prior.

Shocked by the sudden torture, A. broke down after several hours and in order to stop the abuse told the interrogators that he together with Amiram Ben Uliel committed the arson. Ben Uliel also made a confession under intense torture and was brought to reenact the alleged act.

But there is only one problem - despite having confessed to the act, A. only had an indictment submitted against him for being involved in planning the arson, showing that even ISA understood that it had tortured the 17-year-old into a false confession.

"I'm ready to give a confession"

The transcriptions show A. made the confession by first saying, "if you want me to just make a confession, I'm ready to give a version, but it isn't correct." "We're ready to listen," responded the ISA interrogator.

"Amiram woke me up that night, he had a bag on his back with the materials to conduct the attack, we went down by foot to Duma village, went into the village, searched for a house with a window and no shutters, or with an open door," A. said.

"We passed several houses, threw a firebomb into the first house and then a firebomb into the second house, Amiram wrote 'The Messiah King lives,' 'Revenge' and (drew) a Star of David."

In response the interrogator asked, "why did you search for a house inside the village and not on its edges?," to which A. said, "apparently we didn't find an appropriate target on the edges of the village."

The interrogator then asked what the distance was between the homes, and A. said it was several minutes walk. He was then asked who threw the firebomb, and responded that he had thrown it.

A. then started crying and said, "since I confessed can we end the interrogation already?" The interrogator said, "only when you tell the truth, the story you gave is full of holes, you are intentionally warping the details to make us think you aren't involved."

One of the holes in the story was the distance of the homes, which are actually adjacent to each other; A.'s apparent lack of familiarity with the Arab town would seem to suggest a surprising absence of information for someone accused of helping to plan the attack.

As noted A. was cleared of suspicion over having committed the arson, whereas Ben Uliel was indicted over his confession.

The indictment against Ben Uliel accuses him of conducting the arson murder alone. However several issues with the allegations have been pointed out, including that the handwriting of the graffiti at the arson site appears to have been written by two different people, and witnesses testified to seeing more than one assailant.

ISA admitted to false confessions

In response to the publication of the transcriptions, ISA sources told Channel 10 that the incident shows they do not accept all confessions made under torture.

"There were holes in the confession and therefore we did not use it," claimed the sources.

Attorneys of the suspects responded by noting the ISA statement is an admission that there is a confession that was extracted under physical pressure and that it is a false confession, and therefore the confession of Ben Uliel needs to be treated in the same light and canceled.

Regarding the torture, records from the visit of Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri to see the suspects last December released Thursday revealed that they gave him detailed testimony of the torture they were being exposed to, but he chose to cover up the torture in public statements and not take any action.

Attorney David Halevi, who represents several of the suspects for the Honenu legal aid organization, said the "torture included sleep deprivation, food deprivation, serious psychological pressure including heavy physical violence on our clients, with the only end to these acts (of torture) being to produce confessions, and in effect what was presented were false confessions."