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The Tel Aviv District Court acquitted one of 18 suspected pedophiles arrested in a sting operation orchestrated by Channel 10 two years ago, and ruled that the television station had entrapped the suspects and infringed upon their civil rights.

"The conduct of the station and the investigators constituted an inappropriate form of temptation that improperly infringes upon civil rights," wrote Tel Aviv District Court Judge Dan Mor in his decision. "I will not lend my hand to such conduct."

"Channel 10 took upon itself the freedom to conduct a police investigation, which the law reserves for official investigative authorities, solely to serve the needs of the 'ratings Moloch,'" Mor wrote. "The station did not in the least take into account the damage liable to be caused to those who were tempted."

Two years ago, at the instructions of producer Dov Gil-Har, Channel 10 investigators pretended they were 13-year-old girls, in Internet chat rooms, and waited for men to converse with them. Eighteen men who conducted conversations of a sexual nature with them were subsequently brought to an apartment where a young-looking actress was waiting. After each of the men held a brief conversation with her, Gil-Har confronted them and they were arrested by police on camera.

The station had coordinated its activities with the police and prosecution, but Judge Mor reserved his wrath for Channel 10.

"The matter at hand is the seduction and temptation that goes beyond the bounds of decency," he wrote. "The issue here is not the police. It sent an undercover agent into a criminal arena, in which it had difficulty finding evidence against suspects except [by cooperating with] a television station acting for reasons of ratings, which are commercial considerations aimed at attracting viewers to its programs. A project like this is clearly nothing but voyeurism. It was not motivated by public considerations of bringing suspects to justice, but of increasing the proportion of viewers who watch the station's programs."

Mor said the suspect who was acquitted yesterday, of attempted indecent assault and sexual harassment, was different from the others because he was clearly entrapped.

"The conversations of the investigators were not so innocent," wrote Mor. "This is sophisticated and intentional entrapment."

The judge added that unlike the conversations with other suspects who were brought into court after being caught by Channel 10, the subjects mentioned in the suspect's conversation with the investigator took on a sexual nature only after she entrapped him.

For its part, Channel 10 claimed that the defendant acquitted yesterday was actually the one who was most incriminated by the material collected about him. Nonetheless, it said the material was never broadcast.

Sources at the station added that others who were profiled in the expose were convicted or signed plea bargains.

"We stand 100 percent behind the expose," Channel 10 said in a statement. "We are certain that anyone who saw it would agree that these are dangerous people whose exposure is in the public interest."

The District Court ruling, meanwhile, singled out Gil-Har for criticism.

"I wonder how Gil-Har could have assumed the right to attack the surprised defendant in front of the station's cameras," Mor wrote. "The producer did not allow the defendant even the minimal time required to let him talk to the actress so that, perhaps, he would find out the truth about her age, and then - on the assumption that the defendant is entitled to the benefit of the doubt - get up and leave the place."

Gil-Har said he was studying the ruling.