Top Israeli soccer player detained over sex abuse video

Top Israeli soccer player detained over sex abuse video

Beitar Jerusalem striker Antony Varrene questioned along with other players filmed apparently molesting unresponsive woman

Beitar striker Antony Varenne. (YouTube screenshot)
Beitar striker Antony Varenne. (YouTube screenshot)

Police on Wednesday detained and questioned three Israeli soccer players who were filmed alongside other players sexually abusing a woman, including a member of one of the country’s top teams.

Antony Varenne, a striker for Beitar Jerusalem, which is currently in second place in the Premier League, was one of four men seen in the video — which circulated widely last week — apparently performing sexual acts on a woman who appeared to be passed out, while singing, laughing, and humiliating her.

Earlier this week, police said they would detain the players who appeared in the video, following a complaint lodged on Sunday by MK Merav Michaeli, asking police to investigate the incident.

Varrene’s lawyer, Haim Abergel, claimed Tuesday to have footage and text messages that prove the acts had been consensual.

Varenne, who is French-Israeli, said, “I screwed up. It happened once and will never happen again. I’ll have to live with the shame all my life. Whoever knows me knows it’s not what I’m like,” Hadashot news reported last week.

The video was filmed several years ago, before Varenne played for Beitar.

In addition to Varrene, two players from one of the lower Israeli leagues, who weren’t identified, were detained Wednesday and questioned.

One of them was said to be a close friend of the young woman. He apparently introduced her to the three other athletes, and is suspected of sex offenses as well as filming and distributing the video. His cellphone and computer have been confiscated.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem-based Beitar Nordia team, which plays in Liga Alef, the third tier of the Israeli soccer league system, said it was suspending its player Michael Ross, who appeared in the video, until the conclusion of the police probe.

A statement from the Israel Football Association last Thursday said it had decided, after checking with lawyers, not to summon Varenne for a disciplinary hearing. “We expect soccer players, and everyone else, to behave properly and with respect,” the statement said.

According to the Walla news site, Varenne told friends that someone had already tried to blackmail him in connection with the clip, and that he feared there may be more footage.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said she was shocked to hear about the film.

“There’s no place for such contemptible behavior toward women,” she said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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