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Coalition rebuffs bid for Knesset inquiry into prison ‘pimping’ claims

Deputy minister asks bill’s sponsor to delay vote, with official probe already set to look into claims by Gilboa warden that female guards were given to inmates as peace offerings

Illustrative: Police stand guard outside Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
Illustrative: Police stand guard outside Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Coalition lawmakers on Wednesday shut down an attempt by the opposition to pass a bill that would establish a parliamentary inquiry committee to look into claims that female prison guards were “pimped” to Palestinian terror inmates, in order to keep the prisoners happy.

Most coalition lawmakers reportedly support an inquiry into the affair, but balked at allowing the opposition a legislative victory.

The proposal failed to muster a majority, with only 41 MKs voting in favor and 46 against.

The bill, brought by MK Ofir Sofer of the right-wing Religious Zionism Party, would have set up a parliamentary committee to look into bombshell remarks by Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit last month, in which he alleged that female soldiers used as guards at the prison had been pressed into serving as eye candy or worse for some inmates, as a means of keeping inmates from getting out of hand.

Sheetrit made the claim during testimony before a commission of inquiry probing a recent prison break by Palestinian terror convicts.

Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced into close contact with prisoners as sexual bargaining chips, leading to them being harassed and assaulted, but the case was closed due to a lack of evidence. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev recently asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to reopen the investigation.

Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz asked Sofer to delay the vote by a month, in order to allow the official reopening of the investigation, to no avail. The opposition has made a habit of proposing measures supported by coalition MKs in order to embarrass them when they vote against it.

Police last month said it would reopen the investigation into the allegations.

Gilboa prison commander Freddy Ben Shitrit arrives to give testimony at following the escape of security prisoners from the prison, in Modi’in, November 24, 2021. (Flash90)

Ben Shitrit said in his testimony that before he arrived at the prison, prison employees had “pimped out female soldiers to fulfill some form of needs, not for professional, nor for operational purposes.”

One of the soldiers told the Walla news site that she and other guards had been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian terrorist named Muhammad Atallah.

The guards claimed the prison’s management knew about the abuse and covered it up until media reports by Channel 20 about the affair brought it to light in June 2018.

Those reports alleged that an intelligence officer had placed female guards in the facility’s security wing at the request of the terrorist.

Channel 12 news has reported three soldiers were involved in the case.

The female soldier who came forward said that she had been ordered to accompany Atallah around the facility, which gave him opportunities to assault her, including by groping her buttocks, while her bosses turned a blind eye.

In exchange, Atallah, a powerful figure among the prisoner population, kept the facility quiet for the prison staff, according to Channel 13 News.

In an interview with Channel 12 news, the officer — who has not been publicly identified — denied the allegations, saying they “aren’t true” and that the female soldiers had in fact been “agents” tasked — with their full consent — with extracting information from the inmates.

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