Mahmoud Nazmi Katusa, the Palestinian man from the town of Deir Qaddis near Ramallah, who was suspected of raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl, said upon his release Tuesday that the authorities wasted their time by holding an “innocent” man.
Katusa received a hero’s welcome in his town after IDF Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek announced his decision to withdraw the indictment against him.
“The police lied,” Katusa said shortly after his release. “I told them that instead of wasting their time on an innocent man, they should search for the real criminal. The police asked me if I want to hire a lawyer. I told them there’s no need for a lawyer because I didn’t do anything.”
Denying the charges against him, Katusa said he first thought the police were joking when they told him he was suspected of raping a girl.
“I don’t know the girl,” he said. “The girl’s family knows that I didn’t commit any crime. I have no idea why they chose to accuse me. From day one, I told the police that they have the wrong guy. Those who know me know that I would never commit such a heinous crime. I have many Jewish friends and they too know me and know that I would never do such a thing. I would like to thank them for supporting me.”
He expressed hope that the police would pursue their investigation until they lay their hands on the culprit. “Whoever committed this crime deserves the most severe punishment,” Katusa added. “This whole affair has caused me and my family much suffering.”
Asked if he was planning to return to work at the Jewish community where the girl lives, Katusa said it would be difficult for him to go back. “Although I have several friends there who are like family to me, I don’t think I will be returning in the near future. The 55 days I spent in prison were very difficult and I feel that my life has been ruined.”
Dozens of Palestinians from Deir Qaddis gathered to welcome Katusa as he arrived in the town. Some launched fireworks and chanted “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great) as he approached his home, where he was reunited with his wife, Nisreen.
The Deir Qaddis municipal council issued a statement congratulating Katusa on his release and said the charges against him were “fabricated.”
Residents of the town said they had no doubt that Katusa was innocent. “Everyone here knows he’s a good man,” said Ibrahim Katusa. “He was arrested only because he’s an Arab.”
Katusa’s lawyer Darwish Nashef expressed relief over the decision to withdraw the indictment and release his client. “I’ve been saying from day one that my client is innocent,” he said. “This case raises questions regarding the way the authorities handled it. I hope that this case will serve as a wake-up call for the police and many people.”