New Info Could Acquit Top Suspect in 2009 Gay Youth Club Shooting

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New information about the 2009 shooting spree at the Barnoar gay youth club could lead to the acquittal of the prime suspect, police who are reopening the investigation and prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

“The police recently uncovered new information about the Barnoar murder case,” the Tel Aviv District police and the state prosecution said in a joint statement following a meeting on the case. “In light of this information, the police and prosecution held consultations and decided that some additional investigation is in order.”

At the police’s request, a gag order has been placed on details of the renewed investigation.

The new information, which relates to the state witness in the case, raises questions about his credibility to such an extent that it could lead to Hagai Felician being acquitted due to reasonable doubt. As a result, the witness has been arrested, and police intend to confront him with the new information.

Prosecutors say that if the information proves correct, it will be hard to prosecute the case. But police think that while the new information is damaging, it doesn’t cause the case to collapse.

Earlier this week, the prosecution gave the new material to Felician’s attorneys, Oron Schwartz, Moshe Yochai and Yogev Narkis, and invited them to a meeting on Wednesday to discuss it with the prosecutor in charge of the case, Oshra Guez, and Tel Aviv’s deputy district attorney, Nava Schiller.

“The prosecution displayed professional integrity here,” Narkis said after leaving the meeting. “It’s clear the investigating unit isn’t comfortable with the direction the prosecution is going. It’s clear that the police’s flagship case will collapse and be shelved. Perhaps they ought to do some soul-searching over their excessive eagerness to solve a case that in truth was very central to all of our lives. I can’t rid myself of the impression that in their eagerness, they papered over additional evidence that should have been checked, and that this could have been done earlier.

“Admittedly, nothing has been settled,” he continued. “But in my opinion, they understand what the decision will be. I agree that this isn’t yet the end of the story, but I think we’re heading there.”

Yochai added that the information the prosecution had revealed “clears our client, and they’re checking it. I think this is a kind of slow death, and next week, Hagai Felician will be free to go home. I’d just like to remind you that ever since the case began, we’ve been proclaiming Felician’s innocence. And ever since the investigation started, he’s been begging, ‘Take me to a lie detector.’”

Yochai criticized the police, saying they had “behaved aggressively, and also used the media to prove they were doing their job faithfully. The police told the media that Felician had confessed to an informer, and that wasn’t correct.”

Last July, Felician was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court for the murder of Liz Trubeshi and Nir Katz and the attempted murder of 10 other people present at the Barnoar that evening. The indictment accused Felician, 23, of Bnei Brak, of committing the murder out of a desire for vengeance and hatred for gays.

The state’s key witness, himself a gay man, had approached the police of his own initiative with details about the murder. He said he had given the suspects information about Tel Aviv’s gay youth club, but didn’t know they intended to commit murder there. Police then used him as an undercover agent, and he ostensibly recorded the suspects confessing to the crime.

After signing a state’s evidence agreement and being housed in a concealed location, the witness escaped his safe house and gave an interview to Channel 2 television in which he described the pressure applied to him by both the police and the suspects. Two days later, police found him again. But his flight made the prosecution start questioning his credibility.

About six months after he signed the state’s evidence agreement, the investigative television program “Uvda” reported that the witness claimed Felician’s brother, Yaakov Felician, had been involved in the murder of a police informant in 2006. The witness said the informant, Eyal Salhov, was murdered after admitting to Felician that he was cooperating with the police, the program reported.

The police’s international investigations division said at the time that the information provided by the witness was not credible. But the Tel Aviv District Police’s central unit said his story was credible, and therefore decided to rely on him in the Barnoar case as well.

Hagai Felician, a top suspect in the 2009 shooting spree at the Barnoar gay youth club, in court, July 8, 2013. Credit: Moti Milrod

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