Mystery surrounds haredi man's death

Man whose body was found last week served time for trying to forcefully break up Jewish-Arab couple.

Rafael Mirishvili 248 88 (photo credit: )
Rafael Mirishvili 248 88
(photo credit: )
A man with one hand cuffed who was found dead in an empty building in Beit Dagan last Friday was identified as Raphael Miriashvili, 25, of Lod, following the lifting of a media gag order by police on Tuesday. Hundreds of people attended Miriashvili's funeral in Lod on Monday evening. The circumstances of Miriashvili's death, and the fact that he had served time in prison for attempting to forcefully break up a Jewish-Arab couple, led to speculation that the dead man had been the victim of a revenge slaying. Police, however, said that an autopsy revealed no foul play. "No gunshot wounds or knife wounds were found by the coroner," a police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. "No evidence of criminal wrongdoing was found." A police source said it was too soon to know whether Miriashvili's past activities were linked to his death. Miriashvili, who was a member of Lod's Chabad community, had been missing for approximately a month, prompting police to launch a missing persons inquiry in late July. His body was spotted by a tow truck driver in Beit Dagan on Friday. A police source told the Post that Miriashvili's shoes played a key role in identifying him, since the body was partially decomposed. Police believe Miriashvili had been dead for weeks, and sent his body to a coroner for a limited postmortem examination on Monday evening, after reaching a compromise with members of the Chabad community, who initially objected to the procedure. Four years ago, Miriashvili heard a caller on a pirate haredi radio station describe how her daughter, who was under 18 at the time, had entered into a relationship with an allegedly abusive Arab teenager. The couple had started living together and were expecting a child, the woman said. Miriashvili made contact with the woman after receiving her phone number from the radio station, and proposed a "rescue plan." Donning Border Police uniforms, Miriashvili and two friends pulled up to the home of the youth in a rented car, arriving late at night. They informed the youth that he was under arrest, and that he was being taken to Ramle's police station. As the car sped through the streets of south Tel Aviv, the youth realized he was not in police custody, and he leaped out of the car as it traveled at high speed, sustaining light injuries. He called the police, who apprehended Miriashvili and his two accomplices. Miriashvili was found guilty of kidnapping, battery, and conspiracy to commit a crime while carrying a firearm. He received an 18-month prison sentence, which was reduced to a year for good behavior, and was set free a year ago. Miriashvili was last seen by his sister in July as he was leaving his home. His family say he had planned to travel to Safed to begin a new job.