Police reopen investigation into claim that female guards were ‘pimped’ on Palestinian prisoners

The Israeli police announced Thursday evening that it would reopen an investigation into allegations that female IDF soldiers were “pimped” on Palestinian terror prisoners to keep the prisoners happy.

The move came in the wake of comments on the matter made the day before by Gilboa Prison Director Freddy Ben Shitrit during testimony before a commission of inquiry investigating a recent prison break.

An earlier investigation into the claims was halted due to lack of evidence.

Shitrit is expected to be called for questioning by police over his remarks, Hebrew media reported.

Earlier Thursday, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said he had asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to order an investigation into allegations.

Barlev said in a statement that Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai told him police were investigating the allegations.

Barlev called the allegations “shocking and nauseating.”

Gilboa Prison Commander, Gondar Deputy Chief Freddy Ben Shitrit, arrives to testify at the Government Inspection Commission on the incident of the escape of the security prisoners from Gilboa Prison, in Modi’in, on November 25, 2021. (Flash90)

Female soldiers first claimed in 2018 that they were forced into close contact with detainees as a bargaining chip for sexual contact, causing them to be harassed and assaulted, but the case was closed due to lack of evidence.

Since Ben Shitrit – who was not in prison when the incidents reportedly took place – gave new testimony, calls for the case to be reopened have increased.

But the existing Commission of Inquiry investigating the escape of six terror convicts from Gilboa Prison said it would not investigate the allegations surrounding the female soldiers.

“The investigative panel wants to clarify that this topic… is not open to investigation,” the panel’s head said in a statement. “We rely on the relevant authorities to provide their views on the matter.”

According to the Walla news site, officials from the Ministry of Public Security had previously said the matter fell within the remit of the commission.

“The pimping incident was a huge incident,” Ben Shitrit said on Wednesday.

A guard is seen in a watchtower at Gilboa Prison, northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Flash90)

One of the soldiers who said she had been sexually assaulted in the incident called for the investigation to be reopened.

The soldier, who was not named, told Walla that she and other guards had been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian terrorist named Muhammad Atallah. The guards claimed the prison management was aware of the abuse and kept it hidden until Channel 20 media reports of the affair brought it to light in June 2018.

Those reports alleged that an intelligence officer in the prison placed female guards in the security wing of the facility at the request of the terrorist.

Channel 12 said three soldiers were involved in the case.

The female soldier who came forward said she had been ordered to accompany Atallah around the facility, which gave him the opportunity to attack her, including by groping her buttocks while her bosses turned a blind eye.

In return, Atallah, a powerful figure among the prison population, kept the facility quiet from prison staff, according to Channel 13.

“They sent me on orders that I was not allowed to be a sexual object to get intelligence,” one of the alleged victims told Channel 12. “One of the security prisoners behaved towards me as he wished. Insults , sex crimes, verbal assaults. Every time I came for a shift I was depressed.”

She said she was used “as an object, as a beautiful girl, as a seductive young woman. To just be a sexual object to get information out of them.”

“My commanders didn’t care what I felt or experienced,” she said.

The intelligence officer admitted to placing guards with the detainee after requesting their presence by name, Walla reported.

The officer was suspended but has since returned to prison service. He was summoned to a hearing ahead of his possible dismissal but was not fired, Channel 12 news reported Thursday.

The prison service said on Wednesday that the renewed charges were an attempt to deviate from Ben Shitrit’s testimony about prison mismanagement.

The case was “investigated under a previous commissioner and closed by the prosecution,” the prison service said in a statement. “If Ben Shitrit has any new information in his hands that warrants reopening the investigation, he must immediately pass it on to law enforcement.”

Transport Minister Merav Michaeli called Ben Shitrit’s comments “shocking”.

“I am confident that all the shortcomings and atrocities that have occurred in the prison in recent years will be discovered and rectified,” she said.

Police stand guard outside Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021, after the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from the facility. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Former Labor member Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin said on Thursday she petitioned several times in 2018 to designate an outside agency to investigate the allegations.

She shared on Twitter a copy of a response she received from then Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, saying that he had already appointed a prison official to investigate the allegations and that the matter had been turned over to the police.

In the letter, Erdan promised to take the allegations seriously and follow up on the matter pending the results of the police investigation.

Despite his statement, the case, which received little media attention before Wednesday’s testimony by Shitrit, was closed for lack of evidence and there was no known sequel.

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