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Teen suspect in Dawabsheh case offered plea deal, right-wing activists urge not to sign

April 12, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Family members and relatives of 18 month old baby, Ali Saad-Dawabsheh, view the remains of their house after a fire which was suspected to have been set by Jewish extremists on July 31, 2015 [Oren Ziv/Getty Images]

Right-wing activists are pressuring a teen suspected of involvement the Dawabsheh family’s 2015 murder not to sign a plea deal offered by Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office.

Last week it emerged that Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office was in talks with the teen – who cannot be named because he was a minor at the time the offence was committed – to offer him a plea bargain in return for confession of his involvement in the case.

The teen was indicted in 2016 on charges of conspiring to commit a racially-motivated crime, six counts of arson and racially-motivated vandalism, but these could be reduced if he agrees to sign the deal.

Notably the teen has not been charged with attempted murder or murder, despite the fact that three members of the Dawabsheh family – father Saad, mother Riham and their 18-month-old son Ali – all died as a result of the arson attack on their home in the West Bank village of Duma. The only survivor of the attack, then-five-year-old Ahmed, was left orphaned.

Riham Dawabsheh funeral ceremony

Riham Dawabsheh funeral ceremony

However, yesterday it emerged that right-wing activists are pressuring the teen not to sign the plea bargain. Israeli journalist Carmel Dangor, who reports for Israel’s Kan 11 News, yesterday tweeted: “In recent days, extreme right-wing activists have been pressuring the minor not to sign the plea bargain. The family of the central defendant, Amiram Ben-Uliel, also objects to the arrangement. At the beginning of the week, Rabbi Eliyahu entered the picture and was asked to bridge [the gap] between the sides.”

Dangor’s tweet mentions Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed in the north of Israel, who has reportedly been brought in to mediate between the State Prosecutor’s Office, the teen and right-wing activists. Eliyahu is a controversial figure, telling settler teens suspected of murdering Palestinian mother Aisha Al-Rabi in October that they shouldn’t fear prison because “this is where the road to political power begins”.

READ: Jewish settler runs over Palestinian teen in West Bank

According to an Haaretz article from January, Eliyahu gave a presentation in which he said he had spoken with the suspected teens at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva (religious school) in the illegal West Bank settlement of Rehelim, just off Route 60 south of Nablus. “I told these guys, what’s the deal? What are you being accused of? You threw a stone. Do you know how many stones are thrown in [the West Bank] about which the [Israeli] army does nothing?”

One of the teens suspected in the Al-Rabi case was later that month charged with manslaughter, as well as aggravated stone throwing and intentional sabotage of a vehicle “in the context of a terrorist act”. The teen could face “considerable jail time” with a maximum sentence of 20 years, but avoided murder charges which could have seen him face life in prison.

The links between the two cases, and indeed the illegal settlements at their heart, are deep-rooted. The lawyer for Al-Rabi’s killer, Adi Keidar, belongs to the Honenu legal aid group which provides legal assistance to Israeli terror suspects and currently represents Amiram Ben-Uliel, the other settler accused of killing the Dawabsheh family.

The case against Ben-Uliel has been ongoing for several years, with a number of testimonies thrown out amid accusations that Israel’s national security agency, Shin Bet, tortured Ben-Uliel and his under-age accomplice to extract a confession.

Last week, Honenu conducted a poll of religious-Zionist Israelis’ opinions on the case and found that 72.2 per cent thought Shin Bet’s version of the incident does “not reflect the factual truth”. Only 27.8 per cent thought that Shin Bet’s assessment of the affair is “factually accurate”. Asked if they thought Ben-Uliel was guilty, only 1.5 per cent said he “definitely” committed the devastating attack.

READ: Israel rabbis call for funds to support teen accused of killing Palestinian mum