Indictment nears in Bar Noar case, as police finish investigation

Prosecutors on verge of issuing double murder charge against suspected trigger man Hagai Felician.

July 4, 2013 18:41
3 minute read.
Suspect in Bar Noar shooting

Suspect in Bar Noar shooting 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Tel Aviv prosecutors are on the verge of issuing a double murder indictment against Hagai Felician, the Bnei Brak man suspected of being the trigger man in the August 2009 Bar Noar murders.

On Thursday, a prosecutor’s declaration was presented against Felician, the last step before an indictment is issued.

The step means that as far as police are concerned, the investigation against Felician is finished and the case can go to court.

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ido Druyan also extended Felician’s remand by an additional four days. The hearing was over within moments, with Druyan saying to the bank of reporters present, “anti-climactic.”

Despite the impending murder charge, Felician appeared to be in high spirits on Thursday afternoon, smiling and waving to friends and relatives in the courthouse. His attorney, Shimshon Weiss, described the police case as weak and circumstantial, by no means a slam dunk for the prosecution.

“This entire case is circumstantial, there is no primary evidence that links Felician to the crime,” Weiss said at the courthouse on Thursday.

When asked how such a case was able to secure an indictment, Weiss said, “police had to reach an indictment for their own sake. The media circus around the case created a situation where they had to reach an indictment and then they can say, we did our part, it’s the court that let him go.”

The Bar Noar has been a major headache for Tel Aviv police over the past four years and seemingly even more so since the arrests of Felician and two other suspects were made in early-June.

Touted by police as the most expensive murder investigation in the history of the country, news of the arrests were followed by a number of public embarrassments for police.

A week after the arrests, police held a press conference to release details of the case that had previously been banned from publication by a sweeping gag order. As the cameras were rolling on a battery of Tel Aviv district commanders, and details of the case were being published on all Israeli news outlets, Druyan extended the gag order, forcing police to ask the press to retroactively delete the details they had just published.

Later in June, the state witness in the case, upon whom the police’s case was dependent, escaped from his safe house in Tel Aviv and evaded police for almost 48 hours, during which the future of the case was in serious jeopardy.

Felician is the only one of the three original suspects set to face charges in the case. A younger relative of Felician’s was released last month on the charge, as was Tarlan Hankishayev, who had been arrested for allegedly helping plan the murders, which left two dead and 11 wounded at the Bar Noar LGBT youth center on August 1, 2009.

According to the police case, the murders were committed by Felician in order to avenge the sexual assault of his younger relative – the second suspect in the case – by Shaul Gonen, the manager of the LGBT center. Gonen was arrested and charged with sexual assault in June, but was given immunity in exchange for becoming a witness, a decision by police that has been met with criticism.

The police case will weigh heavily on the testimony of Gonen and the state witness, “Z”, a relative of Hankishayev.

Z was serving a prison sentence on an assault charge in early 2013 when he came forward to police telling them he knew who committed the Bar Noar murder. Police deployed Z as an informant, and sent him to build wiretap evidence on the suspects.

There is currently no physical evidence linking Felician to the pistol used in the shooting or scene of the crime, nor any eyewitnesses placing him at Bar Noar on the night of the murder.

Police have stated that he went AWOL from the army for four months after the murder, a fact that will be part of the case against him in court, in addition to the testimony of the state witness and Gonen, and statements Felician made to two jailhouse informants placed in his cell last month.

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