Palestinian rape suspects to be freed after woman recants

Police say disabled Jewish woman who told police her brother’s Arab neighbors assaulted her now claims sex was consensual

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

One of two Palestinian cleared of having raped a disabled Israeli woman in court in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2016 (screenshot: Walla)
One of two Palestinian cleared of having raped a disabled Israeli woman in court in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2016 (screenshot: Walla)

Two Palestinians accused of raping a mentally and physically handicapped Jewish woman earlier this month will go free after she recanted her harrowing testimony and asserted that the sex was consensual, police said Wednesday.

The woman originally claimed that her brother’s Arab neighbors raped her, but changed her testimony as the police investigation into the May 11 assault progressed.

In a Wednesday morning hearing at the Tel Aviv Juvenile Court, police requested that one of the suspects, a Palestinian teenager from the West Bank, be released immediately.

State prosecutors said the teen, who police discovered was in Israel illegally, will be charged for that offense at a later date.

In addition, if the court determines the woman’s disability renders her incapable of the capacity to consent to sexual activity, the teen could face additional charge of perpetrating a sexual assault against a vulnerable person.

Her lawyer told Army Radio Wednesday his client was “legally unable” to give consent.

The woman originally told police that on the night of May 11, three Arab men who lived across the hall from her brother’s apartment in Jaffa, where she had been staying, raped her in addition to urinating and spitting on her and calling her a “dirty Jew.” She also claimed that one of the men filmed the assault on his cellphone.

However, as the investigation progressed, the woman withdrew her claims, telling police earlier this week she had lied about being raped due to the immense pressure from her family, who disapproved of her relationship with the teenage Palestinian.

After telling investigators the “sex was consensual,” the woman said her aunt told her to make the rape claims.

In light of the recanted testimony, public defenders have requested an urgent hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, where they will likely request the immediate release of the second Palestinian suspect, Imad Aldin Draghmah. Draghmah has denied all of the charges against him since his arrest two weeks ago and was remanded into custody for eight days at a Monday court hearing.

Throughout the investigation, police have flip-flopped on whether to treat the alleged rape as a nationalistically motivated attack.

The incident became politicized last week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used it to denounce the Israeli left and media, which he claimed hadn’t condemned the “horrifying crime.”

His remarks were roundly renounced by left-wing politicians, and, a day later, Netanyahu backtracked and apologized for drawing conclusions before the police investigation was completed.

MK Michal Rozin of the left-wing Meretz had pushed for the publication of the case after police sat on it for days without informing the media.

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