IDF captain denies claims of assault

IDF officer denies accus

violence against women 248.88 (photo credit: Brian Blondy)
violence against women 248.88
(photo credit: Brian Blondy)
The 29-year-old IDF officer accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman near the Tel Aviv port overnight Friday denied the allegations against him on Sunday, claiming that he was found with his pants down in the Yarkon River because he had lost his balance after trying to urinate. Overwrought by her ordeal, the young woman did not appear before the court or identify her attacker on Sunday. However, Tel Aviv magistrate Judge Moki Landman concluded that sufficient evidence existed to tie the suspect to the attack. After the suspect was brought before him on Sunday morning, Landman said the evidence he saw was "much more than circumstantial." The suspect was ordered to remain in custody for four more days. Police refused to confirm a report which said that a lineup was scheduled for the coming days, in which the woman who was assaulted will be asked to identify the suspect along with six other witnesses. Later on Sunday, police were still awaiting the results of DNA tests conducted by the forensic division. The suspected perpetrator, a captain, serves in a unit responsible for the personal security of high-ranking officers, including IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Friends said they had celebrated the accused's bachelor party at a strip club on Friday evening, ahead of his wedding scheduled for this coming Wednesday. The officer, who was said to be very drunk, allegedly attacked the woman as she was returning to her car from an evening spent with her friends who live near the port. Police believe he dragged her into bushes dozens of meters away and forcibly took off her clothes, beating and kicking her in the process. As the woman cried for help and struggled with him, he fled after noticing passersby were approaching. Police found her in the bushes, bruised and mostly naked, surrounded by those who had come to her aid. He was later found hiding in the Yarkon River, literally with his pants down, inebriated and bruised, apparently from his struggle with the woman, police said. The captain's fiancée backed him, asserting that he could not possibly have perpetrated the incident. "I just know him. It can't be him," she told reporters at the court. One of his attorneys, Benny Nahari, told police that they had "nabbed the wrong man," according to an Army Radio report. "[The accused] is unequivocally not connected to his incident," said Nahari, adding that the accusations were "uncharacteristic" of his client. Nahari asked police to check whether the suspect's drink had been spiked with a drug. The police representative to court, Supt. Kobi Gatnav, accepted Nahari's request, telling the court the suspect would undergo a blood test. Attorney Keren Nahari also defended the suspect during a Channel 2 interview on Sunday evening. "He's very agitated, he can't believe he's in this situation," she said. "He told me that he's being helping people all his life." The young woman's attorney, Hedva Baum, retaliated by telling Channel 2 that her client was a "rare, assertive and strong" individual, while describing the assault suspect as "an animal." Meanwhile, senior IDF officers expressed hopes that the image of the elite unit would not be damaged. "This is an excellent unit, with high quality personnel. The image of the entire unit must not be tarnished because of this case," the officers were quoted as telling Army Radio. On Saturday night, hundreds of people rallied at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday evening to protest violence against women, hours after it was announced that the officer was arrested for the assault. Israel Radio reported that he had previously served in the personal security unit of the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, and was awaiting promotion in the near future. There was no immediate response from Ashkenazi's office, and a gag order was placed on his identity as well as that of the woman, at the request of police. Brian Blondy, Benjamin Hartman and Jack Tonhaben contributed to this report.