Three men were detained Tuesday in connection with the alleged rape of a seven-year-old girl in a West Bank settlement earlier this year, police said.
The suspects are two Palestinian construction workers who were questioned in the case in the past, and an Israeli driver who transports Palestinian construction workers in the area, a police spokeswoman confirmed.
The spokeswoman added that the three are not suspected of direct involvement in the rape. An unnamed law enforcement official told the Walla news site they were not expected to be charged. The three were released later in the day.
The case has largely stalled following the release of the former main suspect, in an affair that drew accusations of shoddy police work.
It first came to light in June when a Palestinian school janitor in the ultra-Orthodox settlement was charged with kidnapping the child from her school and raping her. The indictment followed a three-month investigation, and led numerous right-wing politicians to call the rape a nationalistically-motivated terror attack.
But the case against Mahmoud Qadusa quickly fell apart under intense public scrutiny and he was released.
The dropped charges had accused Qadusa of dragging 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.
Shortly after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the 7-year-old and forgoing forensic evidence, in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.
The victim was reportedly only examined by a doctor five days after she told her parents about the incident, which was believed to have taken place more than a week before that. Moreover, she was not examined by a clinic doctor and not by a medical official legally qualified to determine whether she had been raped.
Additionally police only collected the clothes of the girl for DNA testing months after the rape was believed to have taken place, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.
An official also confirmed that the girl was only able to identify 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 detention was carried out in Hebrew, rather than the defendant’s native Arabic, the official said.
The home were the rape allegedly took place is located roughly a kilometer away from the school from which the girl was allegedly dragged, crying. Investigators and others raised questions about the case, including how the suspect could have dragged the victim from the school to the home in broad daylight with nobody seeing them or saying anything.
“An Arab man walking in the middle of the day with a girl for 15 minutes, and he pulls her and she falls and cries as the charges claim — that’s impossible,” an Israeli resident of the settlement who has known Qadusa for years said.
The child investigator who questioned the victim wrote in notes obtained by The Times of Israel that the girl could not identify the suspect beyond saying he worked at her school. The investigator referred to her testimony as “weak and incomplete.”
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