Israel court strikes down confessions of baby murder suspects

A Palestinian man stands outside the burnt-out home of a family killed in an arson attack in 2015

Lod (Israel) (AFP) – An Israeli court has struck down some of the confessions of two Jewish suspects in the arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents, ruling that interrogators obtained them by duress.

The decision of the court in Lod, central Israel, could cast doubt on the strength of the prosecution’s case against the accused — Amiram Ben-Uliel from the northern West Bank settlement of Shilo and a minor who cannot be named.

Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burnt to death when the family home, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was firebombed in July 2015.

His parents later died of their injuries. His brother Ahmed, now six, was the sole survivor from the immediate family but was left with severe burns.

Ben-Uliel was charged in January 2016 with three counts of murder and one of attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a hate crime.

His alleged accomplice, aged 17 at the time of the attack, was charged with being an accessory to committing a racially motivated murder.

Israel came under heavy pressure to try those responsible.

The Shin Bet internal security service held suspects under administrative detention, denied some of them the right to see a lawyer part of the time and used physical force during investigations, a court transcript seen by AFP said.

Supporters of the suspects — religious extremists known as “hilltop youth” who oppose the “secular” Israeli state — denounced those methods as torture.

Shin Bet denies using any illegal methods, and has stressed that the entire investigation was conducted under the supervision of the attorney general.

Graffiti left at the site, witness reports and the proximity of Israeli settlements meant suspicions fell immediately on Jewish extremists.