State prosecutors order prison ‘pimping’ case reopened

State Attorney’s Office says probe being revived after Gilboa Prison warden’s testimony; Israel Prisons Service chief seeks ouster of implicated officer

A prison guard stands at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on Monday, September 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A prison guard stands at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on Monday, September 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

State prosecutors on Tuesday ordered police to reopen a probe into claims that female guards at Gilboa Prison were “pimped” to Palestinian terror inmates to keep the prisoners happy.

Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced 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.

A statement from the State Attorney’s office said the decision to reopen the probe came after Freddy Ben Shitrit, the warden of the prison in northern Israel, alleged that female soldiers used as guards at the prison had been pressed into serving as eye candy or worse for some inmates, as a means of keeping inmates from getting out of hand.

Ben Shitrit made the claims during testimony before a commission of inquiry probing a recent prison break by Palestinian terror convicts.

Meanwhile Israel Prisons Service chief Katy Perry on Tuesday ordered the beginning of proceedings to oust an intelligence officer at the prison, Rani Basha, who has been implicated in the case.

Along with the police investigation, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said last week that his office plans to probe the claims as well, while the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry have announced plans to establish a special team to examine the service conditions of conscripts recruited to units outside of the military to ensure they are appropriate.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who recently asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to reopen the investigation, praised Tuesday’s decision by prosecutors.

“Sometimes you need to take a deep breath and count to ten, and just do the right thing,” Barlev wrote on Twitter.

During his testimony last month, Ben Shitrit said that before he arrived at the prison, prison employees had “pimped out female soldiers to fulfill some form of needs, not for professional, nor for operational purposes.”

Gilboa prison commander Freddy Ben Shitrit arrives to give testimony at following the escape of security prisoners from the prison, in Modi’in, on November 24, 2021. (Flash90)

One of the soldiers told the Walla news site that she and other guards had been sexually assaulted by an imprisoned Palestinian terrorist named Muhammad Atallah.

The female soldier who came forward said that she had been ordered to accompany Atallah around the facility, which gave him opportunities to assault her, including by groping her buttocks, while her bosses turned a blind eye.

In exchange, Atallah, a powerful figure among the prisoner population, kept the facility quiet for the prison staff, according to Channel 13 news.

The guards claimed the prison’s management knew about the abuse and covered it up until media reports by Channel 20 about the affair brought it to light in June 2018.

Those reports alleged that the intelligence officer, Basha, had placed female guards in the facility’s security wing at the request of the terrorist. Channel 12 news has reported three soldiers were involved in the case.

In an interview with Channel 12, 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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