An indictment pending a hearing was announced for Gilboa Prison's former commander Bassem Kashkosh and former intelligence officer Rani Basha over beach of trust and failures of duty over the sexual assault of three female guards by prisoners, State Attorney Amit Aisman said on Tuesday in response to the victims’ appeals.
Kashkosh and Basha had allegedly known that female prison guards had been sexually assaulted by terrorist convict Mahmoud Atallah, but did not report the incidents.
A female guard who later accussed Atallah of rape was allegedly placed in Atallah's wing at the request of the prisoner, "creating a risk of sexually assaulting the female guard during her shift."
Atallah had allegedly also been given the female guard's phone number after she had finished her mandatory service at the prison. The convict had called her, telling her that he missed her and knew where she lived.
Aisman also decided to prosecute Atallah, pending a hearing, for rape and indecent acts.
The guard's attorney welcomes the reopening
Keren Barak, the attorney representing the female guards, welcomed the acceptance of the appeal.
"After a difficult struggle for a number of years against the a law enforcement system that did everything to close and whitewash the case, in my hands are all my goals I swore to achieve when I recieved the case, first and foremost to get justice for the guards," said Barak. "I thank the State Attorney for the understanding that also command staff in Gilboa Prison are responsible for the incident by abandoning the guards."
Basha's attorney, Eyal Basraglik, said that they hadn't been contacted prior to the state attorney's announcement, and said the claims would be refuted to prove his client's innocence. He said that there was no new information against Basha. When they had previously investigated the officer and the case was closed, the attorney said it was chiefly about how Attallah had recieved a PlayStation video game console.
"From the beginning there was no reason to re-investigate the intelligence officer Basha, and certainly not to file an indictment against him subject to a hearing," said Basraglik.
Another investigation was opened in 2018 against four Gilboa prison commanders, but police decided that there was not enough evidence for a reasonable chance of conviction, and the case was closed. The guards had filed an appeal against this decision.
The issue gained media prominence and after Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit mentioned the scandal in his December testimony on the escape of six Palestinian prisoners in September. The State Attorney reopened the investigation into the scandal in response to Shitrit's statements, and new evidence was found when one of the guards revealed that they had been raped in 2022. Based on the new information, the State Attorney determined that there was enough information pursue conviction of Atallah and two of the commanders.
"After six years, justice is coming to light. The victims of the prison case are beginning to receive justice," said Israel Women's Network CEO Hadas Daniely Yelin. "We support the brave female prison guards and the state attorney for this decision -- a decision that sets a clear red line: Harming women is prohibited! We hope that the prison guards will find comfort in this decision and the healing process they are in will continue."
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.