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Suspect in Bar Noar shooting 370.(Photo by: Ben Hartman)
Suspects brought to TA court for LGBT club killings
4th person - a well-known member of the LGBT community - also brought in for separate crime believed linked to motive for shooting.
Almost four years after the fatal shootings at Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar LGBT youth center, four suspects were brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday to face charges in the crime.

While a sweeping gag order remains on all details of the closed-door hearing, it can be reported that the court extended by 11 days the remands of three suspects, including the alleged shooter. They are suspected of planning and carrying out the attack. Police had asked for 15 days, to finish the investigation.

The fourth suspect, a prominent member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, is being charged for a crime that police believe is linked to the motive for the shooting, though they do not believe he took part in planning or carrying out the attack that left two dead and 11 wounded on August 1, 2009.

In the days and weeks after the shooting, the fourth suspect was interviewed in a number of Israeli media outlets, and expressed the hope that police would find the killers. He reportedly cooperated fully with investigators and offered a helping hand to survivors suffering from trauma from the shooting.

The scene at the courthouse was fitting for a case that has been described as the most costly investigation in the history of the Israel Police. The courthouse was jam-packed with reporters and photographers, as well as special patrol unit officers, senior detectives from the Tel Aviv central investigative unit and a number of undercover officers.

The hearing was closed to the public, but the presiding judge allowed journalists to be present.

The police case presented in the hearing rules out the hatecrime motive, popularly seized upon after the shooting. There were suspicions at the time that the killer may have been a religious Jew who hated homosexuals.

None of the suspects brought in on Thursday were religious.

Though it is still covered by the gag order, police in court laid out a very specific and personal motive for the suspects to carry out the attack. They added that the crime was planned over the course of the week or 10 days that preceded the shooting.

The main motive appears to have been revenge against a member of the community who allegedly wronged one of the suspects. The shooter allegedly went to the center and opened fire hoping to kill the person with whom he had a score to settle, but instead killed volunteer and youth counselor Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Triboshi, 16, and wounded 11 people, most of them minors.

The charges against each of the three Bar Noar attack suspects include two counts of murder in the first degree and 11 counts of attempted murder.

The charges against the fourth man, the member of the LGBT community, are still covered by the gag order.

Of the three main suspects, two appear to be directly involved with the planning and execution of the murder, including one who police said was the trigger man. The third man appears to be suspected of being involved to a lesser extent.

Police, who said they still had ample work left before the men could be indicted, may try to convince the third suspect to testify against the principal two.

The charges against the member of the LGBT community, whose remand was extended by four days, could also be used to convince him to implicate the two principal suspects in the murders.

The two principal suspects are also wanted for what police said were dozens of car break-ins, as well as one case of arson. They face drug and weapons charges, and one of the three may face a possession of explosives charge.

Two of the suspects were arrested by police on Wednesday afternoon, while they were driving through Bnei Brak.

Police said on Thursday that one of the principal suspects was interrogated on Wednesday for more than six hours before police announced to reporters that they had arrested three suspects in the Bar Noar attack.

Chen Langer, spokesman for The Aguda – The Israeli National LGBT Task Force, said at the courthouse on Thursday: “Four years have gone by, and the story is so crazy that I don’t know what to say.”

Langer, who was a youth counselor at the youth center and was seriously wounded in the shooting, said of the LGBT community member facing criminal charges, “This is not the person I know. The person I know and what they’re saying are two extremes.”

Defense attorney Orit Hayoun, whose client was a minor at the time of the killings, said that her client has denied the allegations, as did the lawyers representing the other two suspects in the shooting. She warned in court that other suspects had been named or even arrested in the past, including “Jewish terrorist” Jake Tytell, who confessed to the shootings before police determined he played no part in the crime.

The last time police announced a major development in the case was in December, when, following a leak that was published online, police laid out for crime reporters what was considered a potential breakthrough.

That piece of evidence is still covered by a gag order.

Code-named “Flowers in the gun barrel,” the Bar Noar case has bedeviled Tel Aviv police for years.

The announcement of the arrests came two days before the annual Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, as well as two days after new Tel Aviv Police head Cmdr. Bentzi Sau was sworn in.
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