Suspects in murders of 2 teen girls ordered to remain in custody
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Suspects in murders of 2 teen girls ordered to remain in custody

Tel Aviv court describes Tesfebarhan Tesfasion, arrested over killing of ex-girlfriend’s daughter Sylvana Tsegai, as ‘extremely dangerous’

Eritrean national Tesfebarhan Tesfasion arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on November 29, 2018. Tesfasion is a suspect in the murder of 13-year old Sylvana Tsegai in south Tel Aviv. (Flash90)
Eritrean national Tesfebarhan Tesfasion arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on November 29, 2018. Tesfasion is a suspect in the murder of 13-year old Sylvana Tsegai in south Tel Aviv. (Flash90)

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday extended by nine days the remand of an Eritrean man suspected of raping and murdering his ex-girlfriend’s 13-year-old daughter Sylvana Tsegai, in a case that has shocked the country.

Meanwhile, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of five suspects in the killing of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub — whose body was found in her Galilee hometown several hours before Tsegai’s — by between five and seven days.

Tesfebarhan Tesfasion was arrested last week, two days after the body of Tsegai was found in her home in Tel Aviv.

The police representative, who had requested a 12-day remand for Tesfasion, said during the court hearing that the investigation had so far yielded various pieces of evidence linking the suspect to the murder.

The representative added that initial findings from an autopsy on Tsegai’s body confirmed she had been sexually assaulted and murdered.

He also said Tesfasion had begun communicating with his interrogators on Monday, after staying mum until then. However, he was still remaining silent when asked what had happened at Tsegai’s apartment on the day her body was found.

Tesfasion’s lawyer said his client had already provided police with his version of events, and that police hadn’t presented him with evidence connecting him to the crimes.

Judge Alaa Masarwa eventually extended Tesfasion’s remand by nine days, saying the gravity of the suspicions against him rendered him “extremely dangerous.”

Sylvana Tsegai, who was found dead in Tel Aviv, November 26, 2018.

Tesfasion’s father has told the media his son is “crazy” and that he does not care if the police kill him.

According to Hadashot, Tesfasion entered Israel in 2010 through the Egyptian border and is known to authorities for previous offenses. He was sentenced to one year in prison for drunk driving and forging a driving license.

He also previously escaped from a holding facility for African migrants and allegedly tried to obtain an extension for his permit to stay in the country by using a forged marriage license. Tens of thousands of African migrants entered Israel from Egypt in the last decade, and many now live in Tel Aviv.

According to reports, Tsegai was known to welfare authorities as a victim of domestic violence before the killing. She reportedly called police on Saturday to complain about Tesfasion being in her home.

Sources close to Tsegai’s family have reportedly said that Sylvana and her mother had been planning to leave Israel, and that Tesfasion had objected to that plan.

Thousands rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square as part of a nationwide strike protesting the violence against women, December 4, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The killing of Tsegai and Ayoub has renewed calls for action to prevent violence against women.

Some 30,000 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday evening to protest what they say is authorities’ failure to stem a sharp increase in domestic violence.

The protest was the culmination of a day of action that saw thousands of women go on strike and participate in rallies across the country. Intersections throughout Israel were blocked Tuesday morning as women went on strike to protest the deaths of 24 women killed since the start of the year by a partner, family member, or someone known to them.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers violence against women a form of terrorism and vowed to allocate funds to fight it. A new committee on the matter resolved to promote a law forcing abusers to wear tracking bracelets to ensure they don’t violate restraining orders.

Stuart Winer and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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