Serial sex offender Alon Kastiel was released from Hermon Prison in northern Israel on Monday after the Nazareth District Court rejected a petition from state prosecutors against his early release.
A prison parole board decided to grant Kastiel early release last month, on the condition that he remain out of Tel Aviv — the city where he committed his crimes and where some of his victims still live or work.
State prosecutors appealed the move, arguing it “drastically deviates from the bounds of reasonableness.”
But the court ruled on Monday that the Israel Prisons Service parole board, which shortened Kastiel’s sentence, had acted within the law, after they sought an opinion on risk assessment and also heard the position of the victims.
In July 2018, Kastiel, a nightclub owner, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison as part of a plea deal in which he confessed to committing sexual offenses against four women.
Over a dozen women had filed police complaints against Kastiel, including for rape. He was eventually convicted of one charge of attempted rape, forced indecent acts, indecent acts, and sexual harassment.
One of Kastiel’s victims, who was at Monday’s hearing, decried the court’s ruling as “cruel and disappointing.”
Sari Golan said after the decision that if Kastiel really had changed his ways, then he would complete his sentence out of consideration for his victims.
“He could have done something different and he chose to continue to abuse us right until the end,” she said.
Golan noted that she was given the opportunity to speak at the hearing and even address Kastiel himself.
Hagit Pe’er, chair of the Na’amat women’s rights group, slammed the court for making a “serious mistake” in releasing Kastiel, and said that it did not “correct the terrible injustice” of the parole board decision.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said in a statement that the court had made a “mistake” but that Kastiel would now face the court of public opinion, “and the verdict of the public is clear.”
The prison parole panel, in granting his release, noted that Kastiel had completed a treatment plan in prison and that a joint Health Ministry-Welfare Ministry committee had determined that his “danger level” was estimated to be “low.”
The parole board also said that it believed Kastiel would be better served to continue his treatment, which he can no longer receive in prison.
The board said its decision to bar Kastiel from Tel Aviv was made out of sensitivity to the victims’ “fears that they will meet the inmate on the streets of the city.”
The board approached all four victims in whose cases Kastiel was found guilty, but only two appeared before the panel. One had appeared before the board during Kastiel’s first hearing and said she did not want to do so again, and the other could not be reached.
During the hearing, two of his victims “expressed strenuous opposition to his early release and stressed the ongoing harm that he caused them and that will stay with them for a long time, even after the prisoner’s [scheduled] release,” the board said.
One board member dissented and opposed Kastiel’s release on the grounds that the victims’ fears ought to be the deciding factor. State prosecutors also objected to Kastiel’s release.
On top of his original prison sentence, Kastiel was ordered to compensate each of the women he was convicted of assaulting with sums ranging from NIS 15,000 (approximately $4,470) to NIS 50,000 ($14,900).