The state’s witness in the 2009 Tel Aviv gay youth center shooting case has said that he knew about the planned attack on Barnoar, in which two people were killed and at least 15 more were wounded. “I knew something would happen, but I thought it would just be a beating. I didn’t know such a thing was going to happen,” the witness said in an interview to Ynet.
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The witness said the underage suspect in the case was "raped” by one of the other suspects in the case, who has been identified in the media as an activist in Tel Aviv's gay community. The names of both of these suspects are under a gag order, the minor because of his age and the activist by court order in compliance with a police request.
According to the witness, the minor and the activist met by arrangement after becoming acquainted on the Internet. “I don’t know where, but the meeting wasn’t at Barnoar. They engaged in a sexual act. At some point the boy wanted to stop, but the activist didn’t stop. It was rape.”
The witness said that after the incident the minor “told the story to a kind of murderer, to Hagai [Felician, the man the police believe carried out the shooting], who came and talked to me, wanting information about the guy. I was in jail, but I gave them the details over the phone.”
Even though he was in jail at the time, the witness explained, “because I was part of the gay community, and connected to the underworld, it was easier to come to me for information about Barnoar. So it was me, you can say, that gave [the suspects] their information. I’m the one who assisted them.” The witness said that even though it was clear to him who was responsible for the murders, the suspect actually came and confessed to him.
“I knew it was them, confessing. About two years later, I got out of jail, and had a party. Then came another confession – even though it wasn’t necessary, because I knew it was them.”
Regarding his motivation for cooperating with the police and naming the suspects, the state's witness said, “I was a good friend to that family. It’s just that when I went to jail, they sort of forgot about me, and I gave 40 months of my life. Then, when I got out, we had a dispute. Since then, at that moment I said ‘that’s it,’ I’m not going to sit quietly anymore, then during the latest arrest – just two months before I was supposed to get out, I said, that’s it, now I’m going to talk.”
The witness went on to say that last week's arrest of the suspects was supposed to take place after last weekend's annual Gay Pride parade, and not before.
“I can say that it wasn’t supposed to happen. I guess Hagai realized what was going on when he talked to me, he realized how big a mistake he made. But the people I was working with understood faster than him, and I had to go into hiding, and Hagai started looking for me. Let’s say that if I hadn’t gone into hiding, I wouldn’t be talking today. The police started to be afraid that they would lose their case.”
The witness also told Ynet that he was questioned by investigators two days after the shooting and gave them the activist's name, but the police ignored the information. “I used to go to Barnoar myself, and I had some fights there, so my name was involved, and I was questioned. I told the investigators: ‘Listen – let go of everything you’ve got, and focus on [the activist].’ But I guess they didn’t really listen.
The witness also said “I’m not trying to look good, that interests me less. I want to make sure they don’t try to paint the two guys who got arrested as clean, and without fault, because they aren’t.
The arrest of the LGBT activist has shocked members of the youth center. According to the police, the individual is a key figure in the murder investigation. The activist is a well-known figure in the gay community. Other activists, his friends and colleagues, and others who have known him for years are having a hard time believing the accusations made against him. According to them, the activist assisted hundreds of youth with the hardships of coming out of the closet, and all that there has never been a complaint against him.
Chen Langer, one of those injured in the shooting at Barnoar, knows the activist very well. “He is a wonderful person, who has been very active in the community, and has helped to uplift so many young people, helping them continue on to combat service, to activism, to normal lives. He’s helped so many people,” said Langer.
According to Langer, the suspicions raised against the activist are not in line with the man’s image and actions: “I cannot believe the police's version of the story. I’ve got a completely different image in mind. If someone was hurt, I feel for them, but it’s hard for me to believe these accusations.”
The Israeli National LGBT Task Force, which runs Barnoar, has paid around NIS 800,000 in compensation to each of two people who were critically injured in the shooting. A third person, whose injuries were minor, received NIS 80,000.
The three claimants, through attorneys Eitan Peleg and Tamar Kalenberg Levy, demanded damages from the task force, from the Tel Aviv municipality and from the Israel Police. The task force paid 90 percent of the compensation, with the city contributing the remaining 10 percent.
The claimants argued that the three defendants demonstrated negligence in allowing Barnoar's operation without security or a business license and permitting minors to go there without their parents’ knowledge.