(photo credit: Channel 10)
Alleged Jewish terrorist Chaim Pearlman was released to house arrest by the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, after police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) failed to present an appeal of the court’s Wednesday decision to release Pearlman to his parents’ home in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa.
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Outside the courthouse, where he was greeted by friends and supporters who brought treats and champagne, Pearlman said he had suffered abuse and humiliation at the hands of investigators while in custody.
“They abused me for a month, and I am pleased that justice has seen the light of day. For 31 days they kept me imprisoned, screamed at me, cursed me, tried to humiliate me, and kept me handcuffed to a chair for 18 hours,” he declared. “I thank the Creator and my lovely wife, and believe that it is possible to focus on the positive of any situation.”
During Thursday’s hearing, police from the Jerusalem branch of the YAMAR investigative unit only appealed the length of the house arrest, asking the court to extend it from 14 days to 30. Judge Abraham Tal decided to extend the house arrest, but only to 15 days.
Tal also banned Pearlman from contacting any of the additional suspects in his case for the next 45 days.
Pearlman was arrested in July on suspicion of murdering four Palestinians and attempting to murder seven more in Jerusalem in the late ’90s.
Shortly after his arrest, associates of Pearlman gave Channel 2 audio recordings he had made, in which an alleged Shin Bet agent urged him to kill Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch.
Following Pearlman’s release to house arrest Thursday, his wife Karen said that “there is one judge in the heavens, and he is the one who decides. The Holy One, not Judge Abraham Tal, ensured Chaim’s release.”
Pearlman’s lawyer Adi Keidar said Thursday that “it is clear that the evidence in this case was weak to the extent of being nonexistent,” and added that he was certain there would not be an indictment against his client no matter what measures police or the Shin Bet took.
Keidar vowed to fight Pearlman’s house arrest, saying “a man against whom there is so little evidence doesn’t deserve to be on house arrest, and we will present an appeal to the Supreme Court against this as well.”
The attorney also took issue with the Shin Bet’s conduct in regard to his client’s presumption of innocence.
“In the future, the Shin Bet needs to say, ‘We have a suspect, and we have a problem with the case.’ They can’t come to the public and say we’ve caught the killer, we just don’t have evidence for it,” he said.
On Monday, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ordered that Pearlman be released to 15 days of house arrest, and gave police until 9 a.m. Thursday to appeal the decision. Police protested the ruling, saying that Pearlman had been positively identified by one of his victims in a police lineup. However, Judge Nachum Streinlicht dismissed the lineup result, arguing that the widespread media coverage of the case and the publication of photos of Pearlman made it irrelevant.
In response to the court’s decision to release him to house arrest, the Shin Bet issued a rare statement in which it claimed that Pearlman was still the prime suspect in the murders.
“While we have not collected sufficient evidence to try him in court, Pearlman remains the prime suspect in the investigation,” the Shin Bet said in the statement.
The agency said that every step of the investigation against Pearlman had been taken in consultation with the State Attorney’s Office and that grave suspicions had been raised in the probe’s framework, mainly based on comments Pearlman himself had made regarding his personal involvement in a string of terrorist attacks.
The Shin Bet added that the Pearlman investigation was extremely complicated and was under constant supervision by the Justice Ministry.
During his investigation, the Shin Bet said, Pearlman was given several opportunities to present his version of the events, but he refused.
The Shin Bet said it would continue to investigate the murders that Pearlman was suspected of carrying out.
“We will use all of the resources available to us to investigate these severe cases, even if they happened more than 10 years ago,” the agency said.
Things first began to turn sour for the police and the Shin Bet on Monday, when Streinlicht denied their request to extend Pearlman’s remand by an additional 12 days, agreeing instead to a two-day extension. Streinlicht said there was not enough evidence against Pearlman for a conviction and that the 28 days he had already been in custody should have been enough to find sufficient evidence.Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.