The attorney for a Palestinian whose indictment for the rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl was annulled Tuesday due to insufficient evidence assailed law enforcement officials, accusing them of jailing an “innocent man” for nearly two months.
“I do not feel that a pedophile was released because of police failures. I feel that an innocent man was held in detention for almost two months because of extraneous considerations, because of excessive zeal and nothing more,” Nashef Darwish said in a statement.
Darwish’s client, Mahmoud Qadusa, 46, was slated to be released later on Tuesday, hours after the IDF’s military advocate general announced that he was pulling the indictment.
“This case tells us a lot about how the legal system operates with regard to Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line,” the attorney added, arguing that Israel’s military rule in the West Bank prevents Palestinians from receiving a fair trial.
An attorney representing the 7-year-old said the family was in “utter shock” and that “the girl is heartbroken and unwilling to leave her home.”
“The country is waking up to a situation in which the person who a 7-year-old claims raped her is being set free,” said Yehuda Fried.
Qadusa’s family broke out into tears upon learning of the decision.
“Thank God! We said from the very beginning that there was no way Mahmoud would do such a thing. We are so excited we don’t know what to do. It is impossible to describe our happiness,” Qadusa’s brother Anwar told the Haaretz daily.
The indictment against Qadusa had come under fire for its apparent lack of evidence, a fact that the chief military prosecutor, Sharon Afek, acknowledged in a statement to the press announcing the annulment of the charges.
The statement said that “the evidentiary infrastructure that underlies the indictment does not at this time amount to a ‘reasonable chance of conviction.’ Therefore, by law, the criminal process cannot continue, the indictment must be withdrawn and Qadusa released from custody.”
Afek’s announcement was made hours before a military court was scheduled to hold a remand hearing for Qadusa.
Lawmakers from the Arab-Israeli Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad parties were among the first to respond to the decision.
“It turns out that the only nationalistically based part of this story was police negligence in its investigation of Qadusa,” said Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ayman Odeh, referencing the flurry of reactions from right-wing lawmakers who claimed the rape had been an act of terrorism and that Qadusa should be given the death penalty.
“The police and the military court did not hesitate to hold the defendant for two months when there was no evidentiary basis against him. This is the same legal system that holds thousands of Palestinians at any given time,” said Odeh’s colleague MK Aida Touma-Sliman.
“The politicians incited racism and forgot about the little girl who had been raped, and had not yet received justice. The rapist must be found. It is impossible to seek justice within the system of occupation,” she added.
Qadusa, a 46-year-old maintenance custodian at the girl’s school in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in the central West Bank, was arrested 55 days ago.
According to the dropped charges, sometime “between the months of February and April” Qadusa dragged 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 victim, forgoing forensic evidence in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.
Last week, law enforcement announced that they were reopening the investigation in order to verify the suspicions against Qadusa.
On Monday, an official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that an additional slew of details had called further into question the level of professionalism with which the probe had been conducted.
More than two months since the rape was believed to have taken place, only on Monday did police arrive at the home of the alleged victim to collect her clothes for DNA testing, the official confirmed, adding that detectives were skeptical as to whether any forensic evidence could be found.
The official also confirmed that the 7-year-old girl was only able to ID 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.