Zur let off hook in escape debacle

Tel Aviv District commander cleared of any wrongdoing in escape of rapist Benny Sela.

Police Chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi on Thursday received the recommendations of the police committees that examined the organization's responsibility for the escape of serial rapist Benny Sela. But anybody who expected serious changes as a result of the findings would be underwhelmed by the conclusions. After the Yaron Commission surprised many by naming Tel Aviv District Commander David Zur among those police officers whose behavior might be singled out for reprimand, the internal police committee charged with deciding whether reprimands would be given cleared Zur of any wrongdoing. Police sources said that Karadi spoke with Zur and "directed his attention toward his general responsibility for all activities of the police in Tel Aviv" but added that "both the [police] committee and Karadi did not find that Zur was personally responsible for the escape and thus Karadi decided not to take any steps against Zur." Zur is widely expected to be promoted to a senior staff position - such as Lt. Chief of the Israel Police - in the coming years. Zur was, in fact, the only police officer on the Yaron Commission's list to escape without reprimand from the police commission's findings. The two police sergeants who were accompanying Sela when he escaped were removed from their positions and will face a disciplinary hearing, after which the police will "weigh the continuation of their service in the police." While the Operations Commander of the Tel Aviv District, Asst.-Cmdr. Ya'akov Ish-Yemini, was the highest-ranking officer to receive an official reprimand for his performance, Dep.-Cmdrs. Yosef Krispin and Ofer Shuster will both stand trial for their failure to prevent Sela's escape and will both be removed from their positions. Two other police committees also charged with carrying out the findings of the Yaron Commission also submitted their findings Thursday, which mostly reiterated the recommendations of the external probe. One of these committees, led by Lt.-Cmdr. Bentzi Sau and Lt.-Cmdr. Avi Ben Hemmo, delivered rubber-stamp conclusions, including a recommendation to carry out joint operations between police and Israel Prisons Services (IPS) with regard to prisoner transfers and checking the conditions of police detention facilities and prisoner escort units. The second of these committees, headed by Cmdr. Bertie Ohayon, also presented organizational recommendations. These recommendations were okayed by Karadi, establishing a deadline of January 20 for the recommendations to be adopted. Meanwhile, Sela himself was back in the limelight Thursday, as IPS officers challenged the legality of an interview with the rapist published in Friday's magazine section of Yediot Aharonot. The IPS said Thursday that they had passed on an official complaint to the Ethics Committee of the Israel Bar with regard to the interview, arguing that Sela's attorneys had enabled the prisoner to carry out an interview without the necessary permission of the IPS. According to the IPS, Sela never requested and thus never received permission to give an interview. His attorneys, IPS spokeswoman Orit Steltzer said, helped Sela to circumvent the rules in giving the interview. Steltzer added that the interview itself was sufficient evidence to validate the IPS claims.