The Duma Arson Reenactment Video Analyzed on the “Truth” Channel
In February 2020, a YouTube channel with the name ‘Bringing the truth to light’ uploaded a solitary video entitled: “Exposed: The ‘reenactment’ in the Duma file.” The video points out all the problems in this reconstruction and why it should, perhaps, have supported the defense rather than the prosecution. However, the judges inexplicably accepted it as evidence of Amiram’s guilt.
There is no information on the person or people behind the channel. I tried unsuccessfully to get the original video myself so it is unclear how the owner of this channel got it. Perhaps they are associated with the case in some way and felt the need to leak it. I will show you screenshots of the video with my own translation into English. If you know Hebrew, you can watch the entire video here.
On 1 December 2015, Amiram Ben Uliel was arrested and interrogated along with many other suspects in the July arson attack on the Dawabsha home in the village of Duma. Ben Uliel remained silent for 17 days of interrogation until intense violence was inflicted on him under the process referred to euphemistically as ‘enhanced interrogation’.
In pain and torment from the intense torture he underwent, Amiram gives his Shabak interrogators a confession according to which he committed the arson in Duma. Two days after that, Miguel, head of the interrogation team that tortured him, convinces Amiram to go out and conduct a reenactment of the crime in Duma.
Let me bring to your attention the fact that this is still before Amiram has been allowed to see a lawyer. Also, the accused’s lawyer is generally at the reenactment as well. [my editorial contents will be in this colour]
On the night between 19 and 20 December, Amiram agrees to the Miguel’s requests (“You don’t want to do the reenactment so let us continue. Let me find other ways, but I have the means that I know how to apply….”) and they go out to do the reenactment in Duma. In spite of the fact that the police make sure that the interrogating officers are not involved in the reenactment, Miguel accompanies the reenactment and throughtout it is supervising, commenting, and “organizing” whatever is necessary…
In the next moments, you will see parts of the reenactment so you can judge for yourselves: Is this a ‘free and voluntary’ confession as is required by law? Was the reenactment conducted properly? Does it look reasonable to you that a man will be imprisoned for the rest of his life on the basis of such a reenactment?
Text in upper right corner: Traveling in the direction of Duma in a police jeep. Miguel, head of the Shabak interrogation team is in the vehicle.
Indicated by white pointer: Superintendent Erez Amouyel, police officer leading the reconstruction.
Text at bottom of screen: Today is Sunday, 20 December, 01:29 hours.
Indicated by white pointer: Amiran
Erez: What is your name?
Amiram gives his first name only and Erez has to prompt him to give his last name as well. He then asks Amiram for his ID number and Amiram says he does not remember it by heart.
Then, needing to fill in the documentation,
Erez: I express my willingness to point out. . .
Trying to get Amiram to say the purpose of the reenactment.
Erez: Where are we going, Amiram?
Amiram: Ahh. . . I don’t know.
Text in upper right corner: Amiram is not cooperating.
Amiram: I don’t know
Amiram: Where are we going? I have no idea exactly where we are going.
Text in red border: Miguel comes in to help Erez Amouyel.
Miguel: Like we talked about, Amiram. Where do you want to go?
Miguel continues in the next frame: Like we said, nothing has changed.
Amiram then says: I don’t know . . . the Duma area
Erez: what are you going to show us in Duma?
Amiram: Ahhh. . . houses .
Erez: What happened in the houses?
Amiram: They were set on fire . . . set on fire?
Erez: Now we are going to stop the [on next frame] recording and drive in the direction of the village and from there we will continue recording. Okay?
Erez: umm . . . ah? I can’t hear you.
Recording in the vehicle was stopped at 01:32 and begins again about 18 minutes later, at 01:50. What took place during those minutes? Why was the recording stopped? What did Miguel and Erez do in order to get Amiram to cooperate?
Upper right corner text: Erez asks Amiram to try to identify the place.
Erez: Look. . . we took the screens off the windows so you can see better. Look and tell me when you begin to recognize the area.
The car stops and stands for a few moments at a fork in the road and one has to decided whether to go to the left or the right.
Amiram asks if they can continue on foot.
Text in upper right corner: Amiram asks to get out of the vehicle and go on foot but, for some reason, Erez and Miguel do not allow this. They are waiting till they “get closer.”
Erez: Ahh… it’s possible, but for now we prefer not to . . . when we get closer.
This is clearly against protocol. It is the suspect who is supposed to direct the action in the reenactment and the interrogators accompanying him are supposed to follow his lead. That they did not do this raises a serious question about the validity of the reenactment, something the judges did not question in their final verdict.
Then, in the next frames, you can clearly see the jeep takes the righthand road. Could they not take the chance that Amiram might have gone left? After the turn, Erez asks him if he would more easily recognize the place on foot.
Identification of the crime scene is the most significant element of a reliable reconstruction. Erez asks Amiram to identify the way and Amiram asks to get out of the vehicle and continue on foot. However, Erez and Miguel, apparently unhappy with the “identification” offered by Amiram or afraid that he will not know how to take them to the scene, tell him that they need to get closer and only then get out of the car.
It stands to reason, that if Amiram came to the village on foot, as stated in his confession, that he would more easily find it if they were on foot. Moreover, it is not even clear if the road they took to enter the village was the same way Amiram would have taken if he had come on foot from his own settlement. To have made this a valid reenactment, they would have had to enter the village on foot and from the direction Amiram would have taken himself.
In yellow arrow: Miguel who was responsible for the torture during Amiram’s interrogation, has his face covered and he makes a point to stand next to Amiram, to maintain eye contact and talk with him. This is all against acceptable procedure.
In top left corner: Miguel makes sure to stay close by. . .
Amiram was asked to lead them to the scene of the crime and he answer: What, to lead you? I didn’t arrive from here . . I don’t [next frame] . . . in the meantime I don’t recognize here.
It is unclear if Amiram is leading Erez or if Erez is using slight pressure with his arm to guide Amiram in the direction he wants him to go. He could have gone right or left at this point and for some reason he went left. Was it Erez subtly guiding him or:
Text in upper right corner: Large forces of Shabak, the police and the IDF accompany the reenactment and are all along the route. A police officer standing next to the videographer ensures that a spotlight lights up the way forward in order to tell Amiram exactly where he is supposed to go . . .
Text in upper right corner: Police and Shabak officers accompanying Amiram are not happy that he has not yet identified the place and that he does not understand where he jumped the fence.
Amiram: Here at some point I think I crossed . . . jumped over the wall.
In the next frame we hear goats and Amiram says he walked along this road and here he heard the goats. The video anayst who uploaded the video sarcastically writes that hearing the goats is an incriminating detail, something that only the perpetrator would know. Anyone who has been in an Arab village knows that you can hear goats at times. It means nothing.
Text in upper right corner: Amiram says that he thinks the cement columns are new because he doesn’t remember them.
Amiram: Here I think this cement is new because I don’t know if it was here at all.
In fact, the cement columns of the Dawabsha family home that was set on fire are not new at all. They were present at the time of the arson. See for yourselves
Text in upper right corner: Mabat television news broadcast from 1 August 2015, the day after the Duma fire
Text in center red box: These are the cement columns that Amiram “doesn’t remember”
Text in upper right corner: Entering the yard of the first Dawabsha house that was set on fire.
Amiram: I jumped about here . . . yes
The first house that was set on fire was empty of people so the second house was attacked.
Then Amiram turns around and goes in another direction and then for no clear reason, turns around and goes back.. He says: At first I went around there I think.
The text in the upper right corner: Oops. . . Erez is stressed. Amiram is going in the wrong direction.
It is not clear to me why the video analyst thinks Erez is stressed. But I don’t want to filter out anything that here so you can see the whole thing for yourselves.
Then Amiram says that he went around the house, examining it. He then sees that he went into a blocked passageway and he went back the way he came, saying: “I got to here about. . . I turned around and went back.”
Text in upper right corner: Erez tries to excuse the Amiram’s lack of orientation at the scene and says something Amiram did not say — and that is against reenactment procedural rules.
Erez: You saw that it was closed.
Then, the scene abruptly changes in the next frame, and Amiram and Erez are in the family’s yard.
Text in upper right corner: Note that Amiram [merely] describes the scene as it is visually obvious at the time of the reenactment.
Amiram: After I opened it, I put my bag down about there.
What is the “it” that he opened? We do not know because there is obviously a section of the video that is edited out.
Amiram points somewhere in the yard and says that is where he put down his bag and prepared the fire bombs.
It is not clear how much was left out of the reenactment in the video available to the analyst but something definitely was. I know that because I read the judge’s decision in the case and they mentioned that Amiram described how he removed a screen netting from a window in order to throw the fire bomb inside the house.
This mention of the screen was considered an incriminating detail but there is no mention of whether or not there really was a screen on the window to have been removed. If there was no screen, then it could not be an incriminating detail at all. If there was, it may have been an incriminating detail (or it may have been something Amiram was trained to say in his earlier interrogation under torture. After all, we see that Erez had no problem putting words in Amiram’s mouth).
Upper right corner text: Amiram sees the graffiti “Revenge” in front of him and says that that is where he sprayed the graffiti.
Text in green arrow: Amiram points at the graffiti he sees
Amiram: There, it is still written there.
In the next frame, the video analyst writes that the prosecution argues that Amiram showed familiarity with the scene and knew where the graffiti was. But Amiram did not seem to know where it was ahead of time and only pointed to what he actually saw when he was there.
Text in red box: This does not prevent Erez from making a big deal as if it was a big surprise that Amiram knew where the graffit was written.
Erez: Let us see where you drew
And in the next frame he tells Amiram to take him there.
To take him to the graffiti “Revenge” that Amiram had already pointed out to him a moment earlier, as if just revealing it for the first time.
Then Amiram says he will show the other graffiti he drew. He takes Erez to the second graffiti that was also clearly visible and Erez asks what he drew. Amiram replies that he drew “Long live the Messiah.”
Text in upper right corner: And again, Erez puts on an act as if this is an “incriminating detail”
Amiram: And also that crown, although I don’t remember it
It is interesting that Amiram says he does not remember the crown. After all, the defence had a graphologist test whether or not the two graffiti messages were made by the same person and whether or not that person was Amiram. In order to test this, she had Amiram produce the graffiti including the images of the Magen David (the Revenge one) and the crown (the Messiah one). The fact that he did not make the association between the crown and graffiti is quite curious, I think.
I read the testimony and cross examination of the graphologist. Unfortunately, I agree with the judge’s determination to set aside her testimony as being unprofessional. But that does not detract from the fact that Amiram practised both these graffitis multiple times but still seemed not to recall the crown as being part of the second graffiti.
This is what a reenactment of an innocent man from whom a false confession was extracted using torture looks like. Amiram is innocent and each day that he sits behind bars is a horrible injustice. We cannot silence the truth.
This video reenactment is clearly not an indictment of Amiram, in my opinion. Rather, it is an indictment of the system that convicted him using a torture-induced confession and a reenactment that followed on its heels with no evidence that there was any other basis upon which to find him guilty as charged.
It is also evidence that significant change is needed in the police, the Shabak and the courts because all the people who allowed this to happen are abusing their power. These institutions are responsible for the very fabric of our society and can not be populated by people who would take a video like this and use it to put a man in jail for life. Who is to say that what starts with Amiram ends with Amiram?