BRIG.-GEN. OFEK BUCHRIS stands with his wife, Naama, in court at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv yesterday..
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Brig.-Gen. Ofek Buchris told an IDF court, referring to prohibited sexual liaisons with two lower-ranked women. He requested on Tuesday that the court accept a plea deal he cut with the prosecution which would exempt him from jail time.
Buchris was convicted on December 18, ending a 10-monthlong legal saga. He is thought to be the highest-ranking soldier to be convicted for the crime.
The plea deal required that he admit to consensual sex with a junior female soldier, known as A, prohibited because she was under his command, and to conduct deemed unbecoming in sexual advances toward a junior female officer, known as L.
As a consequence of his convictions, the deal put to the court stipulates that Buchris would be demoted to the rank of colonel and receive a suspended sentence, while three counts of rape and any jail time were to be dropped.
Buchris brought prominent character witnesses to support the requests for lenient treatment and no jail time, including Maj.- Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, who testified in person, and incoming IDF deputy chief-of-staff Maj.-Gen.
Aviv Kochavi, who filed a statement in support.
Mizrahi said that Buchris had been a tremendous soldier under his command in both the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin and in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
“Ofek saved my life, diving on top of me,” he said, referring to how Buchris protected him from an exploding grenade in Jenin in 2002. Mizrahi mentioned another instance when Buchris saved him by pushing him away “from touching a booby-trapped weapon.”
“It was a loss for the IDF that Ofek had to retire. Ofek was a mensch,” he added.
Kochavi’s written statement praised Buchris for “displaying conduct and values which many saw as a model” and that the proposed punishment of a demotion was “a heavy punishment.”
The female officer known as L made her first public appearance in the case on Tuesday.
IDF Chief Prosecutor Sharon Zigagi and Buchris’s lead defense lawyer Roi Belcher echoed each other, saying since Buchris was on track to attain the rank of major-general and to possibly even become IDF chief-of-staff, his demotion to colonel was a heavy enough punishment, and that no additional punishment was required.
Despite the support for the plea deal, one of the judges questioned whether demotion of only one rank was sufficient, or whether Buchris should be lowered to lieutenant- colonel.
The IDF has repeatedly noted that Buchris has taken public responsibility for his actions, including making it clear that one victim had rebuffed his sexual solicitations and that he had persisted regardless – a fact mentioned by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot in a December statement about the case.
Buchris was indicted in July for three counts of rape and 13 counts of other sex crimes between July 2012 and January 2013. For over half a year, Buchris had denied allegations of sexual contact with either woman.
The sentencing decision is set for February 2.