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The prosecution has reversed its decision to charge a psychiatric hospital director with abusing helpless individuals, in connection with the alleged abuse of autistic and mentally disabled patients in the closed ward of Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital, near Jerusalem, from 2001-2004.

The prosecution will instead charge Dr. Yaacov Margolin with the lesser crime of neglecting patients.

Haaretz has learned that the prosecution has additionally decided not to indict the hospital's deputy director, Dr. Moshe Abramowitz.

Last February, the district prosecution announced it would press serious charges against those involved in the affair - including Margolin, Abramowitz, head nurses Naama Immanuel Dukshitzki and Dana Ben-Meir, and other senior hospital officials.

"The hospital director and his deputy knew what was happening in the department from the beginning of 2003 ... but took no significant action to end the abuse," stated the draft indictment.

The indictment alleges that Ben-Meir employed, "improper treatment methods, including withholding medication and humiliation ... which harmed the patients."

Bet Shemesh Police investigators were shocked to discover the "behavioral treatment method" formulated by Ben-Meir, which involved abusing patients in response to certain behavioral episodes.

For instance, patients were forced to eat their own vomit, remain in clothes they had soiled, or were locked in their rooms.

In July 2004 an inquiry appointed by the health minister called the conditions in the department "shameful" and recommended shutting it down.

Despite the serious allegations, the prosecution decided to soften the indictment against several officials while canceling the charges against others.

They will still be subject, however, to Civil Service Commission disciplinary procedures.

In addition to the case against Abramowitz, who was to be represented by attorneys Yehuda Weinstein and Ariel Tzemach, the case against the chronic care department supervisor Mariel Goldenberg has also been closed and transfered to the Civil Service Commission.

The charges against Dukshitzki and Ben-Meir remain unaltered.

According to a Justice Ministry statement, "in recent months the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office has conducted hearings at the request of the accused individuals' attorneys, in which various arguments were raised and material was presented on the definition hospital staff positions and authority."

"Following the hearings, it was decided to accept some of the arguments and change the indictment," said the statement. "The prosecution believes that, given the circumstances, the decision is the right and proportional solution."

The officials involved in the affair have all been reassigned.