Police are prepared to drop charges against a Palestinian man accused of raping a 7-year-old Israel girl if they cannot verify the allegations against him, an official familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.
Days after charging Palestinian man Mahmoud Qadusa, police announced Tuesday they were reopening the probe as questions were raised over investigators handling of the case and the evidence they based the indictment on.
The official said that law enforcement is confident in the veracity of the 7-year-old alleged victim’s account and believes that Qadusa is in fact the culprit. However, he acknowledged that the indictment against the 46-year-old Palestinian had been submitted too quickly.
The comment came after prosecutors asked a Judea Military Court judge to order that Qadusa be held in prison for 10 more days. The judge agreed to hold Qadusa in custody for five days instead.
The closed-door hearing, which began at 3 p.m., only ended after 9 p.m.
In a joint statement, police and the army said prosecutors told the court more time was needed to complete the investigation in light of new evidence in the case, as well as to try and verify the suspicions against Qadusa.
Police arrested Qadusa on May 1 on suspicion that the school maintenance worker had kidnapped a child from a school in a central West Bank settlement. He has been in jail since, but questions have been raised about the strength of the case and the reliability of the testimony of the victim. No other witnesses have come forward.
The official said another suspect was arrested during the investigation but was later released. He did not specify when the suspect was arrested.
The official also said that there still is no evidence the alleged crime was nationalistically motivated, as some had initially suspected.
Qadusa’s lawyer, Nashar Darwish, said his client broke down in tears at the Judea Military Court upon hearing the prosecution’s remand request.
“What have you been doing until now?” he is quoted as asking after the prosecution requested additional time to complete the investigation. “Why you are destroying my life,” he was quoted saying.
The case against Qadusa, from the West Bank village of Dir Kadis, had been kept under gag order until Sunday, when police announced that he had been indicted for the kidnap and rape of the girl in an ultra-Orthodox settlement.
According to the charge sheet, Qadusa works as a maintenance custodian in the victim’s school in an ultra-Orthodox settlement. There he got to know the girl, and allegedly periodically gave her candy.
Relying largely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, police have been unable to determine the exact day, week or even month when the alleged rape took place. The indictment states that the incident took place “between the months of February and April.”
The suspect is accused in the indictment of asking the girl to come with him to a home about a kilometer from the school. When she refused, Qadusa dragged the crying girl to the home against her will, the indictment said.
Upon their arrival at the home, the indictment alleged, the suspect pinned down the victim with the help of two friends — who also knew the girl — took her clothes off and raped her while the others held her down and laughed.
Investigators and others have raised questions about the case, including how the suspect managed to drag the victim from the school to the home in broad daylight with nobody saying anything.
The child investigator who questioned the victim wrote in notes obtained by The Times of Israel that the girl could not identify the suspect beyond saying he worked at her school. The investigator referred to her testimony as “weak and incomplete.”
The case against Qadusa is based on the victim’s testimony and her later pointing him out at school while with an adult. That adult was never questioned by police, an official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed.
The lawyer representing Qadusa asserted Tuesday that his client had been falsely accused and that anti-Arab sentiment was driving the case against him.
Nashaf Darwish told reporters outside a hearing at the Judea Military Court that the prosecution’s version of events “doesn’t add up” and said he was confident that court rulings in the coming days would exonerate his client.
Darwish said that police have been unable to locate any eyewitnesses — including the two accomplices mentioned in the indictment — to corroborate the girl’s story.
He also slammed lawmakers for the rhetoric they’ve employed against his client. “Just because he is Arab, he doesn’t deserve the presumption of innocence?” Darwish asked.
On Wednesday, Qadusa’s brother Anwar, and son Qusay told Israeli media outside the courtroom that the suspect, who has no known history of sexual violence, was innocent.
“An injustice is being done to my father. We are sure about it,” Qusay Qadusa said.