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(photo credit: Channel 2)
Three days after his capture, Benny Sela was still the order of the day as police were forced to defend themselves against public criticism, some of it by Knesset members, regarding the serial rapist's capture.
Sela's mother launched an impassioned campaign Monday to rally public and governmental support to seek justice for her son following the alleged police abuse.
"Is there anyone who can help him, and not just laugh at him?" said her letter, sent to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Israel Prison Service chief warden Yaakov Ganot, and Israeli media outlets. "I don't justify his actions, but how much can a person be abused, even if he committed a crime?" Rivka Salah wrote, adding that her son was "sick," and needed treatment.
Sela's mother repeated her son's justification for his escape, saying he was forced to flee because the authorities had shut their eyes to the "bruises all over him," and that repeated requests by Sela for treatment had been ignored.
Tel Aviv Central Investigative Unit detectives offered Sela a second day of respite from police questioning Monday, during which time Sela met with two attorneys from the public defender's office, Michal Bacher and Eyal Hovev.
The lawyers went to see him after hearing that prison authorities were preventing Sela from seeing a lawyer, even though it was the right of every prisoner to do so, Bachar told The Jerusalem Post. She added that the prison authorities also tried to prevent them from meeting with Sela, even though it was the right of lawyers from the Public Defender's Office to meet with any prisoner they wished.
It took the intervention of the Prison Service legal adviser before they were allowed in, Bachar added.
The two lawyers spent one hour with Sela, who complained to them that he had indeed submitted requests to meet with representatives of the Public Defender's Office, but that the requests had not been forwarded. During the meeting, Sela complained about the beatings he had allegedly received.
Sela's defenders said they would request a Police Investigative Department probe into abuse allegations made by Sela. While no photographic evidence of physical abuse has been revealed, Sela allegedly showed Bacher and Hovev bruises on both sides of his rib cage, claiming that police blows had broken his ribs.
Bachar of the Public Defender's Office told the Post she saw clear signs of blows to the ribs on the left and right side of Sela's body.
She said Sela complained he had been beaten by police investigators following his arrest on Friday night and that the Public Defender's Office would lodge a complaint with the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department regarding alleged police brutality.
Members of Knesset addressed the issue of police behavior during the rapist's capture at a Knesset Interior Committee Monday morning.
MK Dov Hanin (Hadash) described police behavior as "unnecessary degradation," saying that police treated Sela as a "trapped animal."
After listening to Yaron Commission head Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron's presentation of the long line of failures that led to Sela's escape, Hanin said that "the culture of violation of norms and standards of behavior" was a common element in the failures that allowed for Sela's escape as well as the treatment of Sela following his capture.
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) said she had no opposition to police behaving toward Sela as if he were an animal.
"I want them to castrate him!" Tirosh shouted. "Why don't we do this? He's an animal, and he even wants to be castrated."
Attorney Shlomo Cohen, head of the Israel Bar Association, burst into the discussion, asking why nobody would condemn Tirosh's exclamation.
But the main force of the meeting concerned the findings of the Yaron Commission, and the resulting police commissions appointed to actualize its recommendations.
MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) expressed his incredulity that the commission had not been extended in order to allow them to question Sela himself after his capture, and said he was shocked "that such a commission would end without an earthquake" shaking the police organization.
The Knesset committee demanded that the police present all of the four committees' findings - complete with timetables for corrective and disciplinary actions - to the Knesset within 60 days.
Meanwhile, Police chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi found himself once again defending the police against allegations of improper behavior.
"The media has attacked us about the pictures of Benny Sela's apprehension. It is true; they were not pretty pictures but how were they created? The media asked for permission to be in the police station when Sela was captured. Maybe that was our first mistake. The media led this. Maybe it was possible to do it differently."
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