Four Eritrean asylum seekers were arrested in Tel Aviv in connection with the rape of a 19-year-old woman early on Tuesday.
A police patrol sighted a suspicious gathering near the old central bus station in the Neveh Sha'anan neighborhood of Tel Aviv. As they approached they saw several men surrounding a woman who was crying for help, and arrested four suspects. The young woman was taken to the hospital, and later told the investigators that as she was heading home she was attacked by the group of Eritrean refugees. She said she was robbed, and then raped by at least one of them.
The four suspects were brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court to extend their remand. The police told the court that evidence collected at the scene of the crime suggests that the woman was, indeed, raped, and that investigators are trying to locate several more suspects. The money and belongings stolen from the woman were not found at the scene of the crime.
The suspects' attorney denied that they had robbed or raped the woman. One of the suspects said he met the woman beforehand and that they had sat together in a nearby bar, before she left with other men. The other suspects said they witnessed the rape, but they too, denied involvement.
The court decided to hold the four men in custody for seven more days.
"It shames me, and the entire community of foreigners in Israel," said Yassin Moussa, an activist in Sons of Darfur, a non-profit refugee aid organization. "The vast majority of us are only trying to survive and support ourselves and stay away from trouble. The whole community believes that cases of rape or theft should be condemned," said Moussa. He urged Israelis not to allow a few isolated cases of violent crime by refugees to stain the entire community. "Israelis, including even your president, have committed rape, but that does not say anthing about all Israelis. This incident should not be used to incite xenophobia," he said.
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