Two men suspected of extorting and kidnapping man, suspending him from a tree

Investigation finds victim borrowed NIS 80,000 from the suspects, who demanded he return five times that amount; suspects to be indicted in coming days

Illustrative: A police car and ambulance in Petah Tikva, August 4, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Illustrative: A police car and ambulance in Petah Tikva, August 4, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Two residents of the Arab town of Ma’ale Iron in northern Israel are expected to be indicted in the coming days for allegedly kidnapping, extorting and eventually suspending from a tree a man who refused to pay them.

According to a police statement released Wednesday, the victim, a resident of the predominantly Arab city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, had borrowed NIS 80,000 ($23,000) from the suspects, who in return demanded the much larger sum of NIS 400,000.

The victim, who was unable to obtain the money, was violently harassed by the suspects. His family also became targets of repeated threats, the report said.

In one instance, a hand grenade was thrown at the victim’s house and in another, a business owned by his family was set ablaze.

At one point the suspects kidnapped the victim and drove him to a remote part of a forest in northern Israel, where they suspended him from a tree, lightly injuring him in the process.

Following a months-long covert investigation carried out by the Lahav 433 police unit, the suspects were arrested two and a half weeks ago. Their custody has been extended several times since.

On Sunday, the prosecution notified a Haifa court of its intention to charge the suspects in the coming days.

Illustrative: Ben Shemen Forest. (Flickr/StateofIsrael/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Arab communities across the country have seen a surge in violence in recent years. Many blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, a group campaigning against violence in the Arab community, over 70 Arab Israelis have been killed in crime-related incidents since the beginning of the year. Among the 70 victims, 58 were shot to death.

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