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Prisons Service chief vows probe into ex-soldier’s claim she was raped by inmate

Katy Perry says former guard’s allegation she was repeatedly raped by terror convict, with her commander’s cooperation, ‘difficult and severe’ and a challenge for the system

Katy Perry, head of the Israel Prison Service arrives to give testimony at a state investigation committee into the escape of security prisoners from the Gilboa prison, in Modi'in, January 13, 2022. (Flash90)
Katy Perry, head of the Israel Prison Service arrives to give testimony at a state investigation committee into the escape of security prisoners from the Gilboa prison, in Modi'in, January 13, 2022. (Flash90)

Israel Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry on Friday vowed to investigate accusations by a former soldier who said she had been repeatedly raped by a Palestinian security inmate while she served in Gilboa Prison, with the cooperation of her commander.

Perry called the allegations “severe and difficult” in a letter to all prison guards in the system, Hebrew media reported.

The former guard’s allegations “present us with a challenge, both as an organization, and at the personal level, as commanders, parents and family members,” Perry wrote.

“As a strong organization which knows how to stand firmly on its path, we also know how to investigate, draw conclusions and take care of this as required with full responsibility,” she said.

She noted that she had previously decided to support and fund mental health treatment for former female prison guards from Gilboa Prison, which has been the subject of similar allegations in the past.

The anonymous woman who made the accusation, identifying under the pseudonym “Hila,” made the allegations on Thursday in a post on crowdfunding site BeActive, where her attorney Keren Barak set up a campaign to support her.

“Hila” said she was “handed over” by her commander to a dangerous terrorist “so that he could hurt me and sexually abuse me again and again,” and added that other female guards suffered the same fate.

She identified her victimizer as the person who has been named in the media in connection with “the pimping of female prison guards,” and claimed that in the prison he was known as the “commander.”

The Knesset Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and Defense is expected to hear from members of the Israel Prison Service, Shin Bet and prosecutors during an emergency session on the scandal next week.

Illustrative: A police officer keeps watch from an observation tower at the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Barak, the attorney, told Channel 12 that her client “lives in poverty due to her mental state that does not allow her to join the job market.” She said the crowdfunding campaign was set up for this reason, to support her with accommodation and therapy.

According to Hila, the prisoner “controlled all the officers and staff, who listened to him and carried out his ‘commands’ without debate.”

The man, she said, “walked around the prison freely, uncuffed, and with his filthy hands touched the bodies of female soldiers without consequence. Everybody knew, everybody was silent. Everybody was afraid. Everybody worked for him.”

Reports of female IDF soldiers being sexually harassed and assaulted in Israeli prisons surfaced several years ago, but then were largely dropped until last year when a probe was reopened following new evidence.

Earlier this week, the Ynet news site reported that a Palestinian prisoner convicted of terrorism, Mahmoud Atallah, was being investigated by police over sexual assault while behind bars.

Atallah has been in solitary confinement since 2018, over a scandal in which an intelligence officer allegedly “pimped” female guards to him and to other Palestinian inmates, at his request.

Hila said that throughout her service at Gilboa Prison, “I became a prisoner, the private sex slave” of the convict.

She alleged that “my commanders, my staff, who I thought were supposed to protect me, handed me over to that terrorist. They made sure I stayed alone with him, contrary to clear rules, so he could cruelly hurt me and abuse me sexually again and again; and not just me, but many female guards.”

She claimed that the army has attempted to cover up the case: “Since the rape, my life has been hell. They are trying to silence me.” Hila said she felt that the military “hoped that I will take the secret with me to the grave.”

“I request from you, the people of Israel, support the public struggle to establish an investigative committee. I am not a political person, I don’t care about politics, I care only about the truth,” she said.

Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced by the intelligence officer 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.

Then, in November last year, Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit, who was not serving at the prison when the incidents allegedly took place, made bombshell remarks regarding the allegations. This led Perry to initiate proceedings to oust the intelligence officer at the prison, Rani Basha, who had been implicated in the case. State prosecutors also ordered police to reopen the probe into the case.

Earlier this month, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev approved Basha’s dismissal, citing the “serious violation of his duties as a prison guard” and noting that the decision was made in part “to prevent serious damage to the public’s trust in the [prison system].”

In an interview with Channel 12 last year, Basha 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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