After alleged hit try, an officer finds himself on the other side of the law
Former cop charged with trying to off partner's ex, but claims his life was one in danger.
Shlomo Avraham once again sat down in the hall of the Nazareth Magistrate's Court last week and gazed sadly at his son, Avner, whose custody was being extended by that court.
As he had in the two previous court hearings since his arrest on November 15, the 43-year-old Avner Avraham was sitting there like any other suspect and had covered his face with the hood of his jacket.
But up until a few weeks ago, Avner Avraham was more of a fixture on the other side of the courtroom in his capacity as a veteran and respected detective and intelligence coordinator for the police.
That was until he was arrested on suspicion of trying to murder the former spouse of his partner. On Monday, he appeared in the Nazareth District Court to hear the indictment against him on charges of attempted murder, extortion, illegal possession of a weapon and obstruction of justice.
"I hate the police force," said his father in pain. "I was a policeman in the Israeli Police for 32 years and my son wanted to follow in my footsteps. He's been in the police force since he left the army. He gave his whole life to the police and to serving. He brought the police lots of successes and this is the gift he gets in return. From the day he became an intelligence coordinator I was afraid and I warned him that the day would come when criminals would set him up and try to topple him."
Judges Ilanit Imber of the Nazareth Magistrate's Court and Joseph Ben-Hamo of the district court approved publication of the suspect's name this week at the request of Haaretz. Avraham is suspected of transferring money to a hired assassin whom he allegedly asked to buy a revolver and to kill Wisam Hatib, the divorced spouse of Suha Yassin, who has been his partner for more than two years.
Attorney Shadi Dabah, who is representing Avraham, said: "Apparently a sum of money was indeed transferred to a third party but I understand it was a debt or a loan to an intelligence source."
Under interrogation, Avraham claimed that he had given money to a third party to follow the people who had threatened his life. Yassin was also arrested after suspicions that she had tried to persuaded others to attempt murder.
But while Avraham is still under arrest and has been indicted, Yassin was released a week ago.
Threatened at the highest level
When it was decided earlier this week to extend Avraham's remand, after he had been in detention for two and a half weeks, the judge wrote: "At this stage, the suspicions have become more concrete. No one will disagree that the new evidence collected supports the request put before me to extend the remand."
The lawyer who until this week represented Avraham, public defender Erez Moskowitz, claimed that "those who complained against the suspect are a collection of criminals who are doing everything they can to implicate him so as to get benefits from the state, whether it be closing of the files against them or shortening of their sentence." The attorney added: "We are talking about someone who was a policeman threatened at the highest level."
In addition to the couple, three other people have been arrested, including Yassin's brother, who is suspected of illegally dealing weapons. Another man was arrested on suspicion of mediating the deal and a third for allegedly being contracted for the hit; he apparently incriminated Avraham.
Hatib, who has a criminal past, was found guilty some two years ago of assault and jailed for 40 months, of which he served 17. He was acquitted last month of most of the counts in the indictment. In an unusual step, the court ordered his release from prison before the retrial.
During Hatib's appeal in court last March, his attorney, Shlomi Bumenfeld, charged that Avraham had told the unit for investigating police officers that he had used Yassin as an intelligence source. During that same hearing, Avraham responded to one of the questions: "If you say that I and Suha together took the incrimination as protection against the accused and as part of the romantic relationship with Suha Yassin, I say that is a lie."
The personal relationship between the two was revealed when an indictment was served against Hatib's brother and his friend who were suspected of setting Yassin's car on fire, apparently in revenge for the fact that she had complained her husband hit her.
The prosecution canceled the indictment when the defense learned that Avraham, who was intelligence coordinator at the Misgav police station at the time, had written the police report about the car being torched.
The romance between Avraham and the plaintiff was not mentioned by the police to the prosecution, which then decided to close the case.
Meanwhile the two suspects lodged a civil suit against Avraham and the Israel Police, demanding NIS 1 million.
"The indictment against my client, the former husband of the suspect, is part of a plot woven against him," Blumenfeld said. "This is undoubtedly a stinking rotten case."
Even after the prosecution closed the file about the torching of Yassin's car, Avraham continued serving in the police force. His attorney, Dabah, says that Avraham "received threats to his life during the last three years and had concrete information that they wanted to get rid of him."
Avraham says he was fearful that the former spouse wanted to take revenge against him and Yassin because he charged they had framed him and because he was angry his wife had left him for Avraham.
"The threats against them grew worse and he was not provided with the appropriate protection," Dabah said. "They didn't even install an emergency button in his home."
Avraham's father watched as his son was led away in chains by the guards.
"My son has been deserted by the police, I'm sorry he enlisted in the force ... They didn't give him protection. But he didn't do what they are trying to foist on him. He is completely clean," he said.
Yassin is living in a home she has with Avraham somewhere in the north and she sounded very frightened when she spoke to Haaretz.
"I feel completely exposed," she said. "Everyone is against me, including the system. Everyone wants to take revenge against me and particularly against [Avraham]. No one is prepared to accept the fact that a Jewish policeman fell in love with an Arab woman and the two of them got married. I very much hope that Avner's innocence will be proven in the court and that he will come home as soon as possible."