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WEST BANK: Palestinians who confessed to killing family are resigned to fate, lawyer says

May 18, 2011 | 12:00 pm

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Nobody seems to know what was going through the heads of Amjad Awad, 19, and a distant cousin, Hakim Awad, 18, when they broke into the Jewish settlement of Itamar near their village in the northern West Bank in March and killed a family of five people, including three children.

A relative of Hakim's expressed disbelief, saying the two were just kids. The two, who confessed to the killings to the Israeli army shortly after their arrest in mid-April, have not been allowed any visits by family members.

"They said they have done it and they are not going to plead innocent or claim they made their confession under duress,” their attorney, Faris Abu Hasan, said. “I do not know what kind of state of mind they were in when they confessed.”

The two Palestinians, residents of Awarta, cooperated with their interrogators and gave them full and explicit details of how they had accomplished the killings, officials said.

Israeli military law applied in the occupied West Bank allows the army to arrest a Palestinian resident of the West Bank and hold the person for as many as 90 days without being officially charged. Family members are not allowed to visit during this time and neither are attorneys, unless, as in the Awads’ case, the suspects have confessed and the interrogation has ended.

Abu Hasan, who has met his clients only once since their arrest, believes the Awads are resigned to their fate. He says once the case comes to court, which may be soon, the pair will plead guilty. He said he thinks they didn’t believe they would make it into the heavily fortified settlement of Itamar, where they attacked the Fogel family, let alone manage to get back out.

Once the prosecutor presents the list of charges to the military court, which will convene May 27 in a northern West Bank military base, the trial date will be set. Hasan said it would likely take just one court session for the judge to pass sentence because the Awads plan to plead guilty.

An Israeli military judge Tuesday gave the army prosecutor 10 days to present the charge list against the youths.

“I do not think I will have a case in court,” Abu Hasan said. “It seems that it is already decided.”

— Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

[For the Record, 6 p.m. May 18: An earlier version of this report stated that the attack in the Itamar settlement took place in February. It happened in March.]

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