In an almost unprecedented blow to IDF Military Advocate-General Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek, on Tuesday he withdrew the indictment against Palestinian Mahmoud Katusa for the rape of a seven-year-old child.
The indictment was filed just last week and led to calls from right-wing politicians for the death penalty for Katusa and for demolishing his family home, saying the case was considered as a terrorist rape.But from the beginning there were hints that the case had unusual holes.
Speaking to current and former official sources familiar with the legal issues in play, it was noted that neither the time, date nor place of the rape were clear from the indictment.
It also became clear early on that the family and haredi community of the child had delayed and obstructed the investigation in key ways that may have prevented collecting key pieces of evidence.
Unusually, members of the child's haredi community have also come forward to the media expressing doubt that Katusa was the culprit.
A whole debate sprung up about whether the police should have tested the child's underwear for DNA, though the bottom ine was that the family waited so long to report the alleged rape that it was unlikely any DNA evidence could have been usable.
Because the child was seven, her testimony was taken by a social worker and not police. Whether this was a weak point for the case was also hotly debated.
A detailed statement by Afek did not clarify any of these issues and only vaguely stated that there was other evidence pointing to Katusa beyond the child's testimony, but that it could not be revealed now because the probe of the rape was ongoing.
Essentially, the IDF is now saying that it still believes the rape occurred and that Katusa may have had a role, but that additional evidence that has come in has blurred the picture enough that it is no longer willing to maintain the current indictment as is.
The statement left it unclear as to whether the IDF may file a new indictment later against Katusa for a different set of charges.
Afek is highly praised in the IDF and legal establishment, and this withdrawn indictment so soon after it was filed may be a rare blemish on his record.
It appeared the IDF went forward with the indictment when it believed that its alternate choice was to release Katusa from custody pending further investigation since there are time limits to hold even a Palestinian suspect if they have not yet been indicted.