IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ofek Buchris.
(photo credit: ELI DASSA)
The trial of Brig. Gen. (res.) Ofek Buchris for three counts of rape and 13 counts of other sex crimes between July 2012 and January 2013, opened on Thursday with his unequivocal denial of all of the claims, seven months after the scandal shook the army and the country due to his unprecedented high rank.
At the same time, Buchris and the IDF prosecution, with top military prosecutor Col. Sharon Zagagi personally handling the case, have agreed to mediation toward a potential plea deal.
Hanging in the background of those negotiations will be the court’s decision to schedule the trial’s first witnesses to begin testifying in December if no deal is reached before then.
Women’s groups have opposed the mediation process and are demanding the full weight of the law be brought down on Buchris at trial, which IDF Col. Judge Orli Markman will preside over if it goes forward.
For the purposes of the trial, Markman will be promoted by the army to the rank of Brig. Gen. as will one other judge on the panel, retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge and reserve military judge Zvi Garfinkle, so that they will not hold a lower rank than Buchris, who they are judging.
The third judge on the panel is Brig. Gen. Yohai Ben Yosef, who is not a judge, but an operational navy officer and former commander of the Haifa naval base – who was partially selected to give an operational perspective to the judges and partially because he is one of the few commanders who has no prior history with Buchris.
The decision to indict Buchris was made personally by IDF Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek with a “heavy heart” in light of his stellar record as a combat officer.
According to the indictment filed by Zagagi, Buchris perpetrated all three counts of rape along with seven other sex crimes against A, a low-ranking soldier serving under him, and another six sex crimes against L, an officer working for him.
The highly graphic indictment describes Buchris forcing A to have sexual relations with him as well as to perform sexual acts on him.
Some of the repeat incidents are described over a period of years, but the indictment specifically identifies in significant detail Buchris as having raped A on April 1, 2011 at a weekend-rental home at Bnai Yehuda Village near Katzrin in the North.
In the gamut of dramatic moments in the case, from leaks, to lie detector tests to a confrontation between Buchris and his accusers, part of the key to the case is that A has held up under extreme scrutiny and been backed by L. an officer, and other witnesses. In addition, Buchris has not successfully pinned any possible false motivation on A or L.
Facing off against Zigigi will be Roi Belcher who was one of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s top lawyers and is renown for his fearsome competitiveness in court.