Ben Uliel in court
Ben Uliel in courtHonenu

A new government directive ordering the Israel Prison Services to cease all prisoner visits due to the coronavirus outbreak is causing widespread suffering among the prison population, but some prisoners have been disproportionately affected by the directive.

The three Jewish prisoners who are classified as security detainees are held in segregation from other prisoners, and are not permitted to make telephone calls. Now that visits are not allowed either, they have been effectively cut off from the outside world. Two of the three are currently held in a shared cell, but the third, Amiram Ben Uliel, is being kept in solitary confinement. Ben Uliel, who is married with a child, was arrested under suspicion of arson in the Duma case, four years ago. Until recently, he was permitted one half-hour visit with a family member per week. The other two prisoners were only allowed fortnightly visits.

Human rights organization Honenu recently submitted an urgent petition to the District Court on behalf of Ben Uliel, demanding that he be allowed to make telephone calls to his relatives. Thus far, the Prison Services have denied the request.

The Duma case is ongoing; a few months ago, a hearing was held in the Lod District Court, during the course of which both the prosecution and the defense presented evidence. Ben Uliel’s lawyers highlighted multiple contradictions between various police statements, and also noted a disagreement regarding the number of people suspected of the crime. Although a witness has described seeing two people on the scene, the prosecution asserts that only Ben Uliel was involved.