Police are investigating new leads in the rape a seven-year-old Israeli girl following the release of Palestinian Mahmoud Qadusa, formerly accused of the crime, Channel 13 news reported Tuesday.
These include probes into other Palestinian suspects, as well as a resident of the settlement where the girl lives.
Police are also looking into new information indicating a second victim may have been involved. The girl, who has given testimony to police, did not mention Qadusa.
Qadusa, a 46-year-old maintenance custodian at the alleged victim’s school, nevertheless remains a suspect, and the seven-year-old’s parents have provided police with further evidence they say points to his guilt, according to Channel 13. The parents have given police a nude doll the mother said Qadusa gave her daughter, as well as drawings her daughter made which the mother said identified Qadusa as her attacker.
Earlier in the day the Israel Defense Forces’ military advocate general announced he was dropping the charges against Qadusa. The indictment against him had come under fire for its apparent lack of evidence, a fact that the military prosecutor, Sharon Afek, acknowledged in a statement to the press announcing the annulment of the charges.
The statement said that “the evidentiary infrastructure that underlies the indictment does not at this time amount to a ‘reasonable chance of conviction.’ Therefore, by law, the criminal process cannot continue, the indictment must be withdrawn and Qadusa released from custody.”
The suspect’s lawyer said the decision was “better late than never,” but blasted the court for having allowed his client to remain in jail for nearly two months.
Returning home later in the day, Qadusa was mobbed by Israeli reporters as he hugged his children and siblings at the Beitunia checkpoint. “I’m innocent! I know myself. I was telling them the entire time that I’m not that person.”
Speaking by phone to the Kan public broadcaster, he asserted that he had never met the alleged victim and that “someone was behind the whole ordeal who told her to identify me [as the rapist].”
“For seven years I’ve worked in that city,” Qadusa said of the ultra-Orthodox settlement where the rape allegedly took place. “I have Jewish friends there. They know me. Ask them what they think of me.”
Qadusa told Kan that police should find the “real” culprit and when they do, “don’t put him in jail, kill him.”
According to the dropped charges, sometime “between the months of February and April” Qadusa dragged the girl from her school to a vacant home in the settlement, where he raped her as at least two of his friends pinned her down.
Shortly after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, forgoing forensic evidence in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.
Last week, law enforcement announced that they were reopening the investigation in order to verify the suspicions against Qadusa.
On Monday, an official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that new details had called further into question the level of professionalism with which the probe had been conducted.
More than two months since the rape was believed to have taken place, only on Monday did police arrive at the home of the alleged victim to collect her clothes for DNA testing, the official confirmed, adding that detectives were skeptical as to whether any forensic evidence could be found.
The official also confirmed that the 7-year-old girl was only able to ID Qadusa in school after her mother pointed at him first and told her he was the man who had raped her.
Moreover, a failed polygraph test cited by the military court in successive decisions to extend Qadusa’s detention was carried out in Hebrew, rather than the defendant’s native Arabic, the official said.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.