The Nazareth District Court on Monday acquitted a man of raping an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor after judges said prosecutors did not convincingly show that the alleged act was not consensual.
Women’s rights activists panned the decision and urged prosecutors to appeal it at the Supreme Court, while attorneys for the woman said they did not know how to break the news to her.
According to prosecutors, Adel Hayeb, 43, raped the woman and caused her injuries that required emergency surgery. At the time of the incident, Hayeb was under supervision by authorities following his release after 14 years in prison for raping a 70-year-old woman.
Justices Asher Kula, Danny Sarfati, and Renana Galpas-Mokady found that “it was not proven that the accused raped the complainant without her consent” or that she had said “‘no’ time and time again.”
They said that it was also not shown that the woman “showed passive resistance in one way or another — from which the accused could learn that the complainant refused to have a relationship that was compatible between them.”
Presiding Judge Kula noted that the woman “did not testify in a coherent and consistent manner, and avoided giving answers to some of the questions, both in the hearing before us and in the police investigations as well.”
He emphasized that Hayeb is not without fault and had “certainly” violated the provisions of the supervision order imposed on him.
“He is the one who made blatant sexual suggestions to the complainant,” Kula said. “However, from there to being accused of brutal rape, the distance is long, even very long.”
Hayeb’s attorney Fathi Fukra, from the public defender’s office, welcomed the ruling and said his client had been subjected to “character assassination.”
From the start, he denied all offenses and claimed that the relationship was consensual,” Fukra said.
Hayeb is to be released in the coming days.
“His life was ruined by the investigation, the accusations and the publications in all forms of media,” Fukra said.
Prosecutors said they still believe the woman’s version and that they will study the ruling.
Attorney Dorit Ben Avraham, representing the woman, said in response to the verdict “I am shocked by the ruling” and called it “a black day” for future rape victims.
“Even if the relationship started consensually — and it really didn’t start consensually — the accused must stop the second” consent is under doubt.
Ben Avraham said her client was, at the time, still unaware of the verdict “and we are debating how to announce it. The fear is that it will cause her severe and immediate damage. She has been living with severe anxiety since the incident.”
The two met in July 2022, a year and a half after Hayeb was released from prison. He saw the woman in the street and complimented her, prosecutors said. A relationship developed and Hayeb presented himself as a renovator.
The prosecution claimed that the elderly woman invited him to her home to do some work, but when Hayeb arrived, he pushed her into the bedroom, assaulted her, and raped her.
She was later taken to Ziv Medical Center in Safed with bruises and bleeding which required emergency surgery. During the trial the court heard that the 70-year-old woman that Hayeb was convicted of raping also suffered physical injuries during his assault on her.
Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari tweeted that the court verdict is “a scandal and a disgrace.”
She advised the prosecution to appeal the “terrible decision.”
Hadas Daniely Yelin, CEO of the non-government Israel Women’s Network lobby group, said in a statement “We are shocked by the court’s decision to acquit a man who violently raped an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor.”
“This is a failure of many systems that need to justify themselves,” she added, calling the ruling “delusional.”
Yelin also urged prosecutors to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.