Military Police handlers get community service after informant died by suicide

Staff Sgt. ‘Aleph’ and Staff Sgt. ‘Gimmel’ were accused of failing to report condition of Cpl. Niv Lubaton to superiors after recruiting him in 2019

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Cpl. Niv Lubaton. (Courtesy)
Cpl. Niv Lubaton. (Courtesy)

A military court on Tuesday accepted a plea deal of two Military Police handlers whose informant, Cpl. Niv Lubaton, died by suicide in 2019, and sentenced them to community service.

The two soldiers, Staff Sgt. “Aleph” and Staff Sgt.”Gimmel” — identified only by their first initial in Hebrew — attempted to recruit Lubaton, who was in a squad commander training course, to provide information about drug dealing on the army’s Bislah base in southern Israel in January 2019. Lubaton initially agreed, but called his handlers back an hour and a half later, telling them he would not do it and indicating he intended to harm himself.

According to an indictment filed against the pair in September 2019, they never reported this to their commanders, as they were required to do, even after Lubaton went missing from his base. He was found dead shortly thereafter.

They were charged with making false statements, failing to follow orders, and conduct unbecoming of a soldier for not reporting to their commanders that Lubaton had indicated to them that he intended to harm himself.

The Supreme Court in March 2022 rejected an appeal on behalf of Lubaton’s parents, who claimed that the charges brought against the two Military Police handlers were too lenient. The court said it could not intervene in the military attorney’s decision.

On Tuesday, the two staff sergeants were handed three months of community service and a suspended jail sentence in a plea deal, and they will be demoted to the rank of private.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the military court “examined in depth the circumstances of the offenses, all the relevant facts, and the unique punishment considerations in this case. The court also referred to the family’s position and the great pain it has been dealing with since the death of Niv. After examining all the considerations, the court determined that the plea agreement must be respected.”

The IDF said it had been in close contact with Lubaton’s family during the trial. “The IDF shares in the Lubaton family’s deep sorrow and will continue to accompany them,” the military added.

Five officers received official reprimands in the incident — the commander of the Military Police Investigatory Unit’s southern division, the commander of the Military Police Investigatory Unit’s Beersheba station, and Lubaton’s three direct commanders in his squad leaders’ course — for their failures during the searches for him after he went missing.

Maj. Gilad Franco. (Courtesy/IDF Military Police)

Maj. Gilad Franco, the commanding officer of the Military Police Investigatory Unit’s Beersheba station, was removed from his position in May 2020 by then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, but was reinstated following a Supreme Court appeal last year.

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