Police release Palestinians in Tel Aviv gang rape case, victim testimony seen as unreliable

Both still stand to face charges for illegally residing in Israel.

Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative] (photo credit: INIMAGE)
Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Police will release two Palestinians arrested last month on suspicion of raping a 22-year-old mentally disabled woman after they found inconsistencies in her testimony.
In a statement on Wednesday, Tel Aviv police said that “after 15 days of questioning investigators came to the conclusion that they did not find evidence to support the claims of the complaints,” leading them to recommend that both suspects – a 42-year-old father from Nablus and a 17-year-old Palestinian – be released from custody.
Both still stand to face charges for illegally residing in Israel, and the adult, Imad Aladin Dragame, could potentially face a drug charge as well.
Though in previous court appearances police and the presiding judge said that the woman gave consistent testimony multiple times under oath, as the investigation continued holes appeared in her story.
From the beginning of the investigation, the story was a difficult and highly sensitive one. The alleged victim was a mentally disabled woman who receives state assistance, and the complaint was first issued by her aunt, who had a long running feud with one of the suspects. The aunt had also recently been questioned by police on suspicion of stabbing her live in boyfriend, a drug addict.
It also emerged during the investigation that the complainant had a consensual romantic relationship of some sort with the teenage suspect, and though the other two defendants allegedly filmed the rape on a cellphone, no such video was ever found.
A third suspect in the case – also a Palestinian from the West Bank – was never found.
The case drew great public interest because of the “nationalist” angle that was included in the police arrest warrant and during their statements in court, in which they said that the victim was sexually assaulted and degraded while the attackers shouted anti-Semitic slurs at her.
That led them to add to their arrest warrant a hate crime charge, which became the focus of media coverage. The hate crime angle also inspired a Facebook post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he surmised that if the case had been the other way around – if Jews had raped an Arab girl – there would be much more outrage. The post, seen as a dig at the media and the left, was removed by Netanyahu the next day, after he said he needed to let the investigation continue. 
Already in court on Monday police said that the “nationalist” motive should be removed from the charge sheet, a day after National Police Spokesman Mairav Lapidot said that it appears that there isn’t a terrorism or hate crime angle to the case.
The case has become another public embarrassment for police, who first drew criticism for not reporting the rape for over a week, and then for their zig-zagging on the terrorism angle and finally the release of the two suspects.