The Devious, 'Shakespearean' Way Israeli Soldiers Get Confessions From Suspected Militants

Palestinian prisoners Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty ImagesPalestinian prisoners sit blindfolded on the ground after they were captured by Israeli soldiers.

Ala’a Miqbel, a husband and father, spent a month in an Israeli prison under interrogation for suspected ties to radical Palestinian organisations.

Israeli intelligence officers eventually freed Miqbel (with no charges) but not before they tried to trick him into confessing with “a cross between Big Brother and Shakespeare,” as Emily Harris reported for NPR.

Officers at the prison placed Miqbel with “the sparrows,” as they call themselves in Arabic — actors of-sorts who treated Miqbel as one of their own.

But in reality, the other inmates worked for Israel as informants.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I was in normal prison. The guys welcomed me, they brought me new clothes, I took a shower. They gave me coffee and a pack of cigarettes. When it was time we prayed together,” Maqbel told NPR.

The price for admission, they told Maqbel, was that he be honest about his past, and that he only talk to the pretend Palestinian prison leader, Abu Bahar.

Miqbel’s talks with Bahar often focused on militant activity, his reputation, and how he ended up in jail. “Didn’t you do any activity against Israel in the 2008 war?” He was asked.

Thankful for all the good treatment, Miqbel told him everything.

Before Miqbel met “the sparrows,” he was strip-searched, blindfolded, hand-cuffed to a chair, and kept alone in a cell. Israeli intelligence even planted another prisoner to tell him he had passed interrogation and would head to a regular prison soon.

Although he fell for Israeli tactics, he maintained he didn’t know anything about launch rockets or Islamic Jihad. And he found out he had been fooled days later when Israeli intelligence officers repeated every detail back to him.

“The prisoner is absolutely helpless, and he thinks that the interrogation is over. He can’t guess or know that this is [part] of the whole interrogation process,” Israeli human rights and criminal defence lawyer Smadar Ben-Natan told NPR.

Israeli officers just consider the technique a form of “good cop, bad cop,” NPR reports. And the information would hold up in trial, according to lawyers. Although having prisoners sign confessions themselves works much better.

In the end, Israeli security sources couldn’t confirm anything Miqbel said happened. They say officials released him after his interrogation.

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