The rape of a mentally-disabled woman in south Tel Aviv earlier this month was most likely not terrorism, the police said Sunday, in a statement that ran counter to initial descriptions of the event.
In an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning, police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot said: “At this stage, we aren’t ruling it [terrorism] out, but it looks most likely that the case isn’t moving in that direction. We are still checking what happened and there are differing versions of events given by the suspects.”
Lapidot said investigators “understood from the beginning that there is probably more to this case than it seems, and it appears that this is probably not a terrorist attack.”
The case gained further prominence last week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a Facebook post in which he said the case deserves wall-to-wall condemnation and “can you imagine what the response would be if it was the other way around [if Jews were accused of gang-raping a mentally disabled Palestinian woman]?” The post was perceived as an attack on the media and the Israeli Left, and garnered widespread criticism. On Friday, Netanyahu wrote a post in which he said he regretted the earlier comment, and that he should have waited until the investigation was complete.
On May 16, two Palestinians – including a 42-year-old father of three from Nablus and a minor were arrested on suspicion of raping the 20-year-old woman who lived with her aunt in the same apartment building as the three suspects.
A third man wanted in the case remains at large.
In the second remand hearing for the suspects on May 22, Sgt.-Maj. Yisrael Sianov, the officer representing the police, said the case was one of terrible cruelty and brutality and that it “had a racial background to it,” including the yelling of anti-Semitic slurs at the victim during the act.
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Police have also been the subject of criticism for not reporting the crime to the public – especially considering that one suspect remains at large – but Lapidot said they were not hiding the case, that the remand hearings were open to the public and at no point did they try to take out a gag order.
A number of issues in the case have emerged in the three hearings held so far, including that the lawyer of one of the suspects lawyers has pointed out that police have yet to find the video of the rape his client allegedly filmed with a cellphone, and that the minor arrested in the crime had a prior relationship with the alleged victim.
Police also have had difficulties questioning the victim due to her disability, and have required the assistance of a special investigator.
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