|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem|
4 freed after Mt. Herzl disaster, producer detained
By MELANIE LIDMAN
Police accuse company owners, engineer, consultant of negligence, forgery and accepting bribes, questioning producer.
Police on Thursday released one suspect, while a judge ordered the release of
three people who were arrested in connection with the collapse of a light
rigging system above a stage on the capital’s Mount Herzl that killed a female
soldier and injured several others a day earlier.
Police released the
first suspect early on Thursday without a court hearing and the remaining three
were brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in the
The judge denied the police’s request to keep the suspects in
custody for an additional week for questioning.
The three suspects will
be released on Friday at 9 a.m., to give the police a chance to appeal the
magistrate’s court decision to the Jerusalem District Court. All of the suspects
were ordered released with conditions, including paying a NIS 10,000
The suspects are the two owners of the Itzuv Bama company, the
company engineer, and a security consultant from the Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
The ministry is in charge of next week’s
Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl; Lt. Hila Bezaleli was killed during
rehearsals on Wednesday.
Police on Thursday night also detained for questioning the producer of the Independence Day ceremony. They will decide whether to seek to remand the man to custody following the investigation. The suspects are accused of causing death by
Elad Lavie, one of the owners of the company, and Oren
Varshovsky, the engineer, are also accused of fraud and forgery.
said that some of the company’s safety certificates were forged and others were
simply “oral agreements” that were not sufficient.
“There is suspicion
here of a long series of oversights. A person was killed. A national symbol has
been tarnished,” said Supt. Eli Cohen, who is in charge of investigations
for the Moriah police precinct in Jerusalem.
“The question is not if the
screw was tightened or if the correct material was used – rather [it regards]
much more basic failures,” Cohen said during the hearing for Yitzhak Zuker, the
security consultant for the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
Judge Haim Li-Ran agreed with police that there was a serious
lack of safety and “reasonable suspicion” against a number of the suspects, but
did not see a need to keep them in custody.
“What happened here is a long
chain of failures at every stage and in the preparations for building the
structure,” Police Supt. Itzik Simon told the court during the hearing for
Lavie. He called it “negligence at the highest level that I have
Zuker said he knew Bezaleli’s mother through work.
sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said as he exited the court. “Even though I’m
not responsible, I’m very sorry for how it happened.”
Lawyers for the
suspects said the arrests were made prematurely and that police should have
waited until the investigation was finished.
Police said there could be
additional arrests as more details came to light.
Soldiers taking part in
the rehearsals on the stage for Independence Day ceremonies had warned 20
minutes before the collapse that the lighting system appeared unstable, but
their calls were ignored.
Bezaleli, 20, who was killed when the lighting
structure fell on her, was buried at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery late on
Wednesday night. Hundreds of people attended the funeral.
people were injured, one critically, when the 10-meter-tall steel light rigging
system collapsed. The other victims were injured lightly and treated at Shaare
Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that despite the tragedy,
Independence and Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars ceremonies
should be held as planned on Mount Herzl.
“This is due to the symbolic
importance of the mountain and its proximity to the gravestones of those who
died in Israel’s military campaigns,” Rivlin said.