State Attorney Amit Aisman ordered police to reopen the investigation of the pimping of female guards at Gilboa Prison during the 2015-2017 period.
Aisman’s order on Tuesday came in spite of earlier media leaks that the police would oppose reopening the case because there was no new evidence to justify such a move.
This follows the testimony of Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit, who testified under oath in late November that female prison guards were pimped out to Palestinian prisoners to satisfy them sexually.
According to Ben Shitrit’s statements in the state commission’s inquiry regarding the escape of prisoners from Gilboa Prison, this was hearsay and not events he personally observed at the time, but he believed that the earlier police probe had failed to properly get to the heart of the scandal.
The allegations came out during the testimony he gave regarding the escape of six Palestinian prisoners in September. Following Ben Shitrit's testimony, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev wrote to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit recommending that the case be reopened. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) followed up with a similar request.
Three female guards originally alleged that they were sexually harassed by Fatah prisoner Muhammad Atallah, and that their commanders knew about the harassment and did nothing, as reported by journalist Liran Levy who was the first to break the story in 2018. A fourth female soldier who served as a prison guard came forward last week with the same allegations.
The former guard said that Atallah used to touch her while she worked in the security prisoner’s ward, and that not only did her commanders know about the harassment and do nothing, but that the commander allegedly gave Atallah her phone number after she finished her service in the prison.
The woman said that Atallah called her on her personal phone, telling her he missed her and that he knew where she lived, and that Atallah told her that he got her phone number from a prison guard.
IPS Officer and former Gilboa Prison Intelligence Officer Rani Basha was originally investigated for involvement in the case in 2018, but the probe was closed due to a "lack of evidence," despite the recommendations of the police.
Atallah was eventually indicted on charges of sexual assault, but Basha was reinstated into the service and was recently promoted to serve as head of the detention center at the Magistrate’s Court in Petah Tikva.
However, following the decision to reopen the case, Basha is set to be dismissed from the Israeli Prison Service, following an order from Prison Commissioner Katie Perry on Tuesday evening.
"The decision to dismiss my client is nothing short of a scandal," Basha's lawyer stated following Perry's decision.
"They had not spoken to the officer yet, and had not told him anything and yet they had already decided to dismiss him without any evidence or claim.
"We will take legal action to clear his name," Basha's representative concluded.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev praised the decision made by the State Attorney, saying that he had immediately referred the issue to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit upon hearing about Ben Shitrit's testimony.
He added that this led to collecting additional testimony which in turn led to Aisman's decision.
Last week, a proposal to discuss the establishment of a state inquiry committee into the Gilboa Prison pimping affair fell 46-41 in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday evening, after the coalition MKs voted against reopening the case, or abstained from voting altogether, due to Bar Lev's position.
Sarah Ben-Nun contributed to this report.