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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Another failure was added to the long list of embarrassments that led to the escape of serial rapist Benny Sela when a report revealed Sunday night that an almost identical escape had occurred 19 years ago and that none of the security errors found following that escape were corrected in the ensuing two decades.
In 1987, drug dealer Hanania Ohana escaped from the same parking lot at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, by taking advantage of a badly parked prison vehicle and then climbing over the two-meter-high wall to freedom. Like Sela, Ohana, who was gunned down three years ago during a Tel Aviv gang war, also was not wearing restraints on his legs, and like Sela, police had neglected to lock the secondary security lock on his handcuffs.
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Lt.-Cmdr. (ret.) Rahamim Dori, who wrote a report following Ohana's escape, told Channel 2 news Sunday night that he had submitted a list of failures to his superiors, but that none of the structural factors that had enabled Ohana's escape had been fixed. Even following Sela's escape, the only additional precaution that has been added was one roll of barbed wire looped on top of the yard's wall.
This report followed another revelation published in the Hebrew-language daily Maariv Sunday morning - that shortly after Sela's escape police had discovered an "escape map" in Sela's cell detailing specific locations throughout the country. While the map contained locations known to police, such as Sela's mother's house, it also contained several locations in Tiberias.
That report only served to increase the tensions between police and the Israel Prisons Service, which have run high ever since Sela escaped following his transfer from IPS to police custody a week ago last Friday.
"The IPS read this morning in the newspaper about the alleged discovery of a document including a map of Israel that was found by the Israel Police's investigative squad in Benny Sela's cell. All of Sela's documents were taken care of by the police investigative team who reported to the Eshel Prison for the first time a short time after the escape of the police's prisoner. The IPS never saw such a document and did not know of its existence, if it does in fact exist," said IPS Spokeswoman Orit Steltzer following the report, casting doubt on its veracity.
Following the report, Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Mordechai Peled issued a gag order on the release of further details regarding the police investigation into Sela's escape. "In the course of the week, various stories have been published that may interfere with the investigation into Sela's escape and with his re-arrest," explained a senior officer in the Tel Aviv District. From this point on, further publications about the investigation will be confined to those details okayed for press by a police officer.
Under the shadow of the revelations about the map, the Yaron Commission continued its work on Sunday, interviewing senior police and IPS officers. On Monday as well, the external commission investigating the errors leading up to Sela's escape was expected to meet with representatives of the courts and of the Israel Police as well as the Director-General of the Internal Security Ministry Ronny Falk.