Gag Order Lifted

Comedian Yaron Berlad Suspected of Indecent Assault

Star of TV satire show 'Eretz Nehederet,' denies sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

Comedian Yaron Berlad, a star of the highly popular “Eretz Nehederet" satire television show, is suspected of indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl, the police said Tuesday after a gag order was lifted.

Berlad, who denies the allegations, was questioned at the Hadera police station Monday night and released to house arrest for five days.

Channel 2 franchisee Keshet announced that it has suspended Berlad from the  show, known as “Eretz Nehederet” in Hebrew, until the case is settled.

According to investigators, Berlad and the girl were introduced three months ago by a mutual acquaintance. On Saturday night he came to the town where the girl lives and waited for her in his car. After she entered he touched her inappropriately, she told the police.

“I would very much like to share the whole story with you but unfortunately I can’t at this stage,” Berlad said Tuesday. “I can only hope that I can tell my side of this sad incident as soon as possible.”

According to Berlad’s attorney Lior Epstein, “When the details came in it became quite clear how the affair would end, but it’s a terrible pity and painful that it began. In my world, the world of law, the gap between this case and the way it is presented in the media cannot be bridged.”

The Mama Talent Agency, which represents Berlad, said the gag order was lifted because Berlad refused to hide behind it.

Meanwhile, on Monday the Ministerial Committee for Legislation rejected a bill designed to change the law on sexual harassment at the workplace. Currently, such victims can claim benefits only if the incident “caused physical or psychological damage that requires medical treatment.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Housing Minister Uri Ariel voted for the bill, which was proposed by opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor). A similar bill, introduced by MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) in November, was quashed in a preliminary reading.

According to the State Prosecutor’s Office, in 2012, 62 percent of sexual-harassment cases that reached the prosecutor were closed, usually for a lack of evidence. The State Prosecutor’s Office has handed the figures to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel under the Freedom of Information Law. There were only 25 indictments in 2012.

According to the police, 515 sexual-harassment cases were opened in 2013, but only one-third of them, 146 cases, were passed on to the State Prosecutor’s Office.

Kobi Kalmanovitz