The Israel Defense Forces’ military advocate general announced Tuesday morning that he was dropping the charges against a Palestinian man accused of brutally raping a seven-year-old Israeli girl.
The indictment against Mahmoud Qadusa 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 Therefore, by law, the criminal process cannot continue, the indictment must be withdrawn and Qadusa released from custody.”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 MAG’s announcement was released hours before a military court was scheduled to hold a remand hearing for Qadusa.
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. He is slated to be released later on Tuesday.
Qadusa, a 46-year-old maintenance custodian at the alleged victim’s school in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in the central West Bank, was arrested 55 days ago.
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.
Police kept the case under gag order until after they had filed the indictment last Sunday. The charges were met with a flurry of posts on social media that concluded the crime had been an act of terrorism due to the fact that the suspect was a Palestinian.
Several right-wing lawmakers called for Qadusa’s execution.
But days after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the seven-year-old victim, forgoing forensic evidence in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.
Last week, police 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 an additional slew of 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 seven-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 arrest was carried out in Hebrew, rather than the defendant’s native Arabic, the official said.
“This case tells us a lot about how the legal system operates with regard to Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line,” said Qadusa’s attorney Nashef Darwish. “I listen to the words of the military advocate general and I say to myself, if this is the situation, why now? Why did they not do it a week ago?”
“I do not feel that a pedophile was released because of police failures. I feel that an innocent person was held in detention for almost two months because of extraneous considerations, because of excessive zeal and nothing more,” he added.
Tal Gabay, one of the two lawyers representing the seven-year-old’s family, maintained that Qadusa was the culprit and said he found it “disturbing” that due to “mishaps in the police’s investigation, the rapist [will] be allowed to roam freely.”
Afek, the military prosecutor, said Tuesday that the investigation would continue, “both in relation to Qadusa and following additional leads,” and did not rule out an eventual indictment against the suspect.