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Family of Awarta teen deny allegations

April 17, 2011 7:43 P.M. (Updated: April 20, 2011 11:59 A.M.)
AWARTA, West Bank (Ma'an) -- The family of one of two teens charged by Israeli forces in the murder of a settler family last month is contesting the allegations, saying 19-year-old Hakim Awwad was too ill to have carried out the gruesome attack.

Nouf Awwad told Ma'an on Sunday - the day reports of the allegations against her son were made public with the lifting of an Israeli gag-order on the case of the slain settlers - that Hakim was still recovering from a recent surgery, which prevented him from walking long distances and required him to use the toilet every hour.

"We have the medical records, he is in unstable health," she said, adding that the family is gathering the papers to present as evidence in defense of Hakim.

She said Hakim had undergone testicular surgery in November at the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus.

"He was at home [the night of the murders] and went to bed at 9:30 [p.m.]," she said.

Hakim, who was detained in early April during the third sweep of detentions carried out by Israeli forces, has remained in detention since that time, and has had no contact with his family. Nouf said she "could not rule out" the idea that her son had been tortured and confessed under duress.

The mother said her daughter, Hakim's sister, Julia had also been detained during the month-long series of sweeps. She said Julia had been released exhausted, and said she had been harshly interrogated and put under "severe psychological pressure," and had collapsed more than once during questioning.

Head of the village council Qais Awwad said he suspected much of Israel's investigation had been carried out using torture to extract confessions from residents, and repeated his insistence that international investigators, or at the least observers, be present as the investigation continued.

Hakim was one of two teens from Awarta named in a briefing document obtained by AFP, in which Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet said it had arrested two main suspects and five suspected accomplices.

"The two, residents of the village of Awarta, confessed during the investigation to planning and carrying out the attack and staged a reconstruction," the Shin Bet document said.

Six of the men arrested in connection with the case are members of the Awad family from the village of Awarta, and a seventh, a resident of Ramallah, was a friend of one of the suspected accomplices, the document said.

The Israeli military confirmed the arrests. Colonel Nimrod Aloni, commander of the Shomron Brigade in the northern area of the occupied West Bank told a briefing: "We can say that the murderers are in our hands."

Hakim and Amjad, detained in separate raids, were both named as prime suspects in the murders of five members of the Fogel family, settlers who lived in the illegal settlement of Itamar, adjacent to the village.

The Fogel parents and three of their children including an infant were found stabbed to death in their beds on 11 March. The killings spurred an increase in settler attacks against Palestinians.
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