Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is defending one of the minor Jewish suspects being investigated in the lethal Duma arson case from July, responded on Wednesday morning to Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett's condemnation of the suspects.
Bennett had said the suspects tried to "dismantle the state of Israel," after a confession was extracted from Ben-Gvir's minor client during the course of an interrogation, in which he was allegedly sexually abused in addition to other forms of torture such as sleep deprivation, raising concerns the confession may have been false and inadmissible as evidence.
The Jewish Home head claimed that the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) did not hang the suspects by their hands and feet, and discounted the testimony of a minor suspect who told the court this week he attempted suicide because he could not bear the torture any longer. The suspect's arms were found to be covered in numerous scars, providing further backing to his statements.
"The interrogation isn't sympathetic because they are keeping quiet...do you prefer to believe Itamar Ben-Gvir or (Jewish Home's Justice Minister) Ayelet Shaked?," said Bennett, not referencing the scars of the suspect, and offhandedly trying to discredit the lawyer of the suspect who has revealed the abuse reported by his client.
In response, Ben-Gvir said in a statement that "unfortunately the Shabak (ISA) is taking advantage of the naivety of the Jewish Home ministers, and the fact that they are not familiar with the situation."
"I would suggest that Minister Bennett and Minister Shaked speak with the detainees who were already released in the case, to hear first-hand what those detainees underwent, some of whom currently are on sedative pills, instead of taking the Shabak briefings at face value."
Campaign to discredit suspects?
Ben-Gvir claimed that Bennett's statements backing the ISA, which echo those of a string of politicians on Tuesday, stem from a briefing given in recent days to politicians and public figures by members of the ISA's Jewish Department.
The politicians were given a flier asking them to claim that the "hilltop youth" being held are anti-Zionist, according to the lawyer.
"In terms of Zionism, I actually really connect to what Minister Bennett said and I'm no less Zionist than he. I have arguments occasionally with some of the youths in terms of their faith in the state of Israel, but even if some of the youths are mistaken in their conduct towards the state and went too far, that is still no reason to harm them, to abuse them, and we must not allow the Shabak to harm them."
"Minister Bennett, Minister Shaked and all members of the right-wing public who speak on this case must understand that today it's youth from Geva and tomorrow it's youth from Efrat and Alon Shevut, and in two days from Ra'anana," said Ben-Gvir.
"From the viewpoint of some of those in the Shabak the 'hilltop youth' are the enemy, their parents are the parents of terrorists, and the neighbors of the 'hilltop youth' are a terror supporting environment."
"We must not agree to this conduct and we must raise a cry, even if this cry disturbs members of the Shabak's Jewish Department," concluded the attorney.
Psychologists and social workers have issued a petition to stop the reported torture they argue is illegal under Israeli law, and likewise civil rights groups have called to investigate the ISA over the apparently illegal torture. In one case, the ISA was found to have illegally detained one of the suspects, a minor, for longer than the 20 days mandated by the counter-terror law.