Despite weeks of denials by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) and leading politicians, sources close to the lethal Duma arson investigation revealed on Thursday that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein “personally and concretely” approved torture against the Jewish suspects.
The order to torture the young suspects was given three weeks ago according to the sources, who made the revelation to the leftist paper Haaretz. The report clarifies the statements of Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, who told the paper earlier in December that Weinstein had approved “exceptional measures.”
According to the sources, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was not privy to the approval, and only was updated regarding the torture later, after it had already started taking place. Weinstein may well have overstepped his jurisdiction by doing so.
The new revelation comes after ISA repeatedly denied the torture allegations, and a string of politicians got on board by denying the torture and trying to delegitmize the testimony of the suspects regarding it. Those politicians included Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud).
The sources revealed that Weinstein directly gave ISA interrogators permission to torture the Duma suspects, despite such torture being illegal according to civil rights groups.
Weinstein’s approval for the torture directly contradicts the mechanism of torture approval determined by Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, after the High Court outlawed torture in 1999. According to Rubinstein, the Attorney General cannot give ISA interrogators permission to use torture in specific incidents, but rather can tell them what techniques he will permit them to do without putting them on trial.
Weinstein on the other hand gave a concrete order to torture the suspects, according to the sources.
A month later, suspects maintain innocence
The attorney general’s approval of torture is made all the more remarkable given his long-standing opposition to security forces taking harsh measures against Arab terorrism – just in October he forbid shooting Arab terrorists once they were neutralized, despite cases of terrorists continuing to stab after being shot, and he has likewise opposed changing the guidelines to open-fire on terrorists.
In response to the report, the Justice Ministry headed by Shaked issued a statement, which did not deny that approval was given to torture the suspects.
“The decisions regarding the manner of interrogation were made by the head of the Shabak (ISA) in accordance with its authorities, during supervision and accompaniment by the most senior sources in the Justice Ministry, headed by the Attorney General,” read the statement.
One minor suspect in the case reportedly broke down and confessed last week after nearly a month of interrogation, but given the reports of brutal torture in the interrogation, there are heavy concerns that the confession was false and inadmissible as evidence. Prior to the confession, officials admitted there was no evidence against the suspects.
The sources told Haaretz that the rest of the suspects have maintained their silence despite over a month of torture, continuing to argue their innocence.
One suspect said after undergoing 30 days of interrogation that the ISA is lying, and that the suspects are indeed being tortured – the same suspect was released after the courts threw out the ISA’s attempt to keep him in interrogation based on alleged involvement in an unrelated quarrel with Bedouin shepherds two years ago.
Another minor suspect still being held testified before the courts that he tried to commit suicide to end the interrogation and torture, and just this Wednesday, two weeks after the attempt, his lawyers were finally allowed to photograph the numerous scars on his wrist.
A psychiatric counselor had determined the minor suspect was driven into severe depression and traumatic stress as a result of the interrogation, and he was prescribed sleeping pills by a doctor in his detention center due to sleep deprivation related to interrogation and torture.
Jewish youth released Tuesday recounts ‘frightening’ ordeal while in the ISA’s custody.
First Publish: 12/30/2015, 10:48 PM
Released Duma suspect
The Jewish youth held for nearly a month in connection to the deadly Duma arson spoke out Wednesday a day after after his release from Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) custody.
“I didn’t understand what they wanted from me,” he recounted to Channel 2. “I went into the interrogation room and they started yelling at me, ‘We know you did it.’ I told them I didn’t have anything to do with it and they continued to yell ‘murderer’ at me.”
The minor was arrested along with several other Jewish youths, but he alleges the Shin Bet never asked him about his connection to these suspects, and only tried to extract a confession from him.
“I was not presented with any evidence or proof, they just shouted, ‘thank you, thank you,'” he said. “Little by little they wouldn’t let me sleep. The moment I fell asleep, they began to scream. I kept saying I didn’t do it and they continued to yell at me to confess.”
“They told me ‘you’re a ticking bomb, that’s why we’re beating you,'” the minor claimed. “Every time I fell asleep, they grabbed my chin and pushed me with all their might. I felt enormous pain in the neck, like I was about to die – and they continued to say if I didn’t confess, they wouldn’t leave me [alone].”
“If I fell asleep, even for two minutes, I was immediately woken up with a punch to the stomach or a scream in the ear,” he added. “They are lying, there was horrible violence against the detainees.”
“I was afraid of being beaten until I confessed – and they they would put me in jail,” he admitted. “I said I’d stick to the truth despite the torture, although I think most people would admit to whatever they wanted if they went through what I went through – even I considered it.”
Despite his release, the youth remains under house arrest based on his alleged involvement in an unrelated quarrel with Bedouin shepherds two years ago.