The lawyer of an Israeli-American teenager suspected of waging an intimidation campaign of bomb hoaxes and threats against Jewish institutions and other targets around the world said in an interview aired Wednesday that her client has attempted to commit suicide at least five times over the past two weeks.
“The teenager I am representing is in a bad state. In the past two weeks he has made five suicide attempts,” lawyer Shira Nir told Channel 10 news.
“In the jail itself he is in the psychiatric wing. [They] are currently weighing whether to transfer him to a psychiatric hospital inside of the jail,” she added.
There was no immediate comment from the Prisons Service.
The parents of the suspect — whose name is being held under gag order — and his attorneys have said that 18-year-old hacker from Ashkelon has a brain tumor and is on the autistic spectrum, and that these affected his behavior.
In an interview with The Times of Israel last month, his parents said they were deeply worried about their son’s health. His mother said he had lost 30% of his body weight, and his father said he wasn’t sure his son knew who he was the last time he saw him.
“Every time the phone rings, I’m afraid they’re going to tell me something terrible has happened to him,” his mother said. “We’re worried for his life,” said his father.
Last month, Israel filed a massive list of criminal charges against the suspect, including accusations that he made thousands of bomb threat calls and other violent threats to institutions, schools and hospitals in numerous countries, and to airlines all over the world. The Israeli charges came days after charged were filed against him in the US courts.
“He is autistic and had no idea of the consequences of his actions,” Nir said. “He did not know how to differentiate between what is permitted and what is forbidden.”
In Wednesday’s interview, Nir also said that a fundraising campaign has been organized on an Israeli crowdfunding site to pay for her client’s medical treatment.
“There is nowhere to send him, he needs special care that costs [a lot of] money and the people who are meant to supervise him cost a lot of money,” she said.
In April, the teen was charged in Tel Aviv District Court with thousands of counts of extortion, publishing false information that caused panic, computer offenses and money laundering, among other charges.
His alleged threats caused fighter jets to scramble, planes to dump fuel and make emergency landings, large numbers of schools to evacuate, and numerous other chaotic consequences. In some cases, he allegedly threatened to execute children he claimed to be holding hostage. Channel 10 on Wednesday broadcast recordings of some of the threatening calls.
The Israeli indictment said that in addition to 200-plus previously reported threats to Jewish community centers, the unnamed teen also targeted hundreds of non-Jewish schools, airlines and airports, malls, and police stations, in the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Britain, and tried to extort Republican State Senator Ernesto Lopez from Delaware. He also offered extortion services over the internet in return for compensation in the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
Police said he used sophisticated “camouflage technologies” to disguise his voice and mask his location. They said a search of his home uncovered advanced antennas and satellite equipment.
The teenager was arrested in March after a manhunt that lasted several years, in conjunction with a US Justice Department investigation. His father was briefly detained as well.
In April, Channel 2 reported that Israel had refused a US request to extradite the suspect in favor of him being tried in Israel.
AP contributed to this report.