Chaim Pearlman
Chaim Pearlman being released in Petah Tikva, August 12, 2010. Photo by Alon Ron
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Chaim Pearlman, who is suspected of fatally stabbing at least three Palestinians more than a decade ago, was released to house arrest yesterday and promptly said he had been abused and humiliated while in jail.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court said on Wednesday that the Shin Bet security service lacked sufficient evident to indict him, but Pearlman's release was delayed until yesterday morning to give police enough time to appeal it to the district court.

"I was held in jail for 31 days," said Pearlman on his release. "They cursed me, they tried to humiliate me. I suffered, but it's all for the best."

On Monday, Petah Tikva judge Nachum Sternlicht had already concluded that police had insufficient evidence for an indictment, but he gave them two of the additional eight days they had sought to complete their investigation. When they failed to produce new evidence by Wednesday, he ordered Pearlman released.

"These are serious allegations of murder, and the suspect has been held for a month," Sternlicht said on Wednesday. "Evidence that led to his arrest has been gathered, but it was not sufficient to file an indictment."

Questions remain over the Shin Bet's handling of the case and over the exact number of killings Pearlman is suspected of having committed.

"Pearlman was held for a month in a case in which there was no evidence from the start," said his attorney, Adi Keidar, yesterday. "They said 'we caught a murderer,' but they had no proof."

Keidar said he has filed a complaint over Pearlman's claim that he was tortured.

The B'Tselem human rights group joined the demand to probe the Shin Bet's treatment of Pearlman.

"Pearlman's description of the Shin Bet's improper interrogation methods, including binding him painfully, keeping him in extremely low temperatures, pushing him to the ground while his hands were bound and beating him, resembles descriptions by Palestinian prisoners who were interrogated by the security service in recent years," it said.

But despite these recurrent allegations, B'Tselem noted, no investigation has been opened into complaints of Shin Bet torture since 2001.

In its statement Wednesday, the Shin Bet said the investigation against Pearlman had raised serious suspicions - based in part on the suspect's own remarks - regarding Pearlman's personal involvement in a series of murders and other offenses. The investigation strengthened these suspicions, Shin Bet sources said yesterday, but never produced sufficient evidence for an indictment.

The Shin Bet began the investigation on the basis of intelligence that linked Pearlman to a series of stabbings in Jerusalem in the 1990s.