Two Palestinian men were arrested in connection with the alleged rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl, the police said Tuesday, over a month after a military prosecutor ordered another Palestinian arrested in the case to be released over lack of evidence.
The arrests Tuesday were the first to be made since the case against Mahmoud Qadusa fell apart under intense public scrutiny late June, in an affair that drew accusations of shoddy police work.
The two suspects are residents of the West Bank village of Qibya. It was not immediately clear what role they are accused of having in the suspected rape.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, police do not have forensic evidence implicating the two. The men are expected to be brought before a judge in the coming days for an arraignment, though they are not slated to have their remand extended
A police official said that in the coming weeks, they will be seeking to question all Palestinians that were in the ultra-Orthodox city-settlement in the central West Bank during the period they believe the girl had been raped. They also will be questioning other members of the community and have not ruled out the possibility that a fellow Jewish resident could have been the perpetrator.
“The Israel Police continues to investigate the rape case all the time and with all the tools and means available to it in order to arrive at the truth,” a statement from police said Tuesday.
The statement also said police could not give further details about an ongoing investigation.
Qadusa, who worked in custodial services at the girl’s school, was held in jail for nearly two months as he was investigated for the alleged rape. His release came after questions were raised over police’s handling of the probe.
After returning to his home in the central West Bank village of Dir Kadis following his release, Qadusa asserted that he had never met the alleged victim and that “someone was behind the whole ordeal who told her to identify me [as the rapist].”
“For seven years I’ve worked in that city,” Qadusa, 46, said of the settlement where the alleged rape took place. “I have Jewish friends there. They know me. Ask them what they think of me.”
Qadusa told Kan at the time that police should find the “real” culprit and when they do, “don’t put him in jail, kill him.”
The dropped charges had accused Qadusa of dragging the girl from her school to a vacant home in the settlement, where he raped her as at least two of his friends pinned her down.
Shortly after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, forgoing forensic evidence in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.
The indictment said the alleged crime occurred sometime “between the months of February and April.”
Police only collected the clothes of the girl for DNA testing months after the rape was believed to have taken place, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.
An official also confirmed that the girl was only able to identify Qadusa in school after her mother pointed at him first and told her he was the man who had raped her.
Moreover, a failed polygraph test cited by the military court in successive decisions to extend Qadusa’s detention was carried out in Hebrew, rather than the defendant’s native Arabic, the official said.