'Police framed Israeli facing Thai death penalty'

Brother claims cops wanted tips to put away organized crime kingpin Yitzhak Abergil.

Itzik Abergil 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Itzik Abergil 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The brother of one of two Israelis facing a death sentence in Thailand for drug crimes accused the Israel Police of framing his brother as "punishment" for not cooperating with police efforts to gather evidence against organized crime kingpin Yitzhak Abergil. Rafi Mahluf, brother of Yigal Alon Mahluf, told Israel Radio on Wednesday that the Israel Police representative in Thailand, Yaki Oved, had visited his brother in jail repeatedly, promising police assistance in securing his release in exchange for "tips" on Abergil. "My brother is innocent. To the Israel Police, I say, enough! He's received the death penalty. The police turned to him a few times and said, cooperate with us on Abergil, and we'll help get you released. My brother had no information to give them on the Abergil family, so they harassed him and now he's been given the death penalty," Mahluf said. He added that court documents attached to the case contained "45 pages tying him to the Abergil family" that originated with the Israel Police. The police denied the allegations, saying in a statement, "As a rule, the Israel Police does not give details on intelligence, including to law enforcement agencies abroad, for obvious reasons." "The Israel Police... did not believe he would receive the death penalty. They thought he would get three to five years... believe me, they're not sleeping well at night now. They know 100 percent that he's innocent," Mahluf said. Rafi Mahluf said his brother, who has lived abroad for 15 years, owned a hostel called Shenkin in Thailand which also acted as a travel agency. "All the Israelis went there to eat Israeli food and buy plane tickets," Mahluf said. "Yitzhak Abergil, like thousands of others, came to buy tickets and to eat at the restaurant. They [Mahluf and Abergil] met a few times over the ticket purchase, and when my brother served him at the restaurant," Mahluf added. Based on those meetings, the Israel Police had concluded that Yigal was "associated" with the Abergils, Mahluf claimed. "The Thai police don't know him [my brother]. Drugs were not found on him during the arrest," Mahluf said. Mahluf also charged the Israeli Embassy in Thailand with failing to provide legal assistance, adding that no translator was in court on Tuesday to translate the sentence. "My brother only found out [about the death penalty] when he returned to prison. I found out through the media," Mahluf said. "He's still in shock. He booked his flight ticket home, he didn't see this coming." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her Thai counterpart Wednesday and asked for his help in commuting the death sentence. Yigal Alon Mahluf and Vladimir Agronik were arrested last year in a drug bust in Bangkok, and were convicted of possessing some 23,000 Ecstasy pills that Thai police said were bound for Italy and the US. "The drug plague is a grave international phenomenon found in all societies, and every state needs to fight against it. No one questions that anyone who committed these types of crimes should sit behind lock and key and pay a price for their crimes," Livni said. "If that were all that we were talking about, Israel would not have made a request," she added. "I am turning to you with this request to reconsider the harsh death sentence that was handed down on the Israeli citizens and commute it to prison time." According to Livni's office, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said that the legal process was only in its early stages, and there were many other stages before the death sentence would be carried out. It was agreed that the Foreign Ministry would continue to follow the process and would act according to the legal developments. Mahluf and Agronik have indicated that they will appeal. The families of the two men were briefed on the conversation.