Jewish settler accused of killing Palestinian toddler released to house arrest

Jewish settler accused of killing Palestinian toddler released to house arrest
The July 2015 arson attack, allegedly by Jewish settlers, killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents, drawing international condemnation.
3 min read
13 July, 2018
Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burnt to death in the arson attack [Getty]

An Israeli court on Thursday ordered a suspect in a firebombing that killed a Palestinian family to be released from prison to house arrest after throwing out parts of his confession.

The July 2015 arson attack killed a toddler and his parents, drawing international condemnation.

The release to house arrest of the suspect, a 17-year-old at the time of the attack who is being held in a special prison ward, was delayed until Sunday to give prosecutors time to appeal the ruling to the supreme court.

Court proceedings were closed to the public since the suspect, accused of being an accessory to racially motivated murder, is being tried as a minor and his identity has not been released.

Court officials and defence lawyers confirmed Thursday's ruling.

The court ordered the suspect's release "to house arrest with electronic shackling and supervision," said right-wing legal aid organisation Honenu, which is representing the suspect.

Adi Kedar, one of the suspect's lawyers, hailed the decision as a "success". 

He said the "full details" of the case will be exposed, helping to "bring this affair to its end".

The ruling was the latest sign that the prosecution's case may be faltering.

Last month, the same district court in Lod in central Israel threw out parts of the confessions of both the minor and the main suspect, Amiram Ben-Uliel from the northern West Bank settlement of Shilo.

The court ruled that the confessions it had thrown out were obtained through physical coercion that defence lawyers described as torture.

The justice ministry, however, said following the Thursday decision that "disqualifying some of the evidence does not significantly change the status of the evidence and chances of conviction in the case." 

Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burnt to death when the family home in the village of Duma in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was firebombed.

His parents later died of their injuries. His brother Ahmed, four at the time of the attack, was the sole survivor from the immediate family but was left with severe burns.

Israeli security services came under heavy pressure to catch and try those responsible.

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. He was 21 at the time he was charged.

Court documents made publicly available have not elaborated on the techniques used by investigators when obtaining their confessions.

Israeli daily Haaretz said they would typically have included "painful physical means such as binding hands and feet... or prolonged uncomfortable kneeling."

Other confessions however remain part of the case.

The court has heard that in subsequent videotaped interrogations where no physical pressure was used Ben-Uliel repeated his confession.

An earlier admission by the minor, made to undercover policemen posing as fellow prisoners in his jail cell, was also deemed admissible.

The trial continues.