Israel Seeks House Arrest for Defendant in 2009 TA Gay Center Murders

Discredited state’s witness, in custody since last week, stays mum during confrontation with Hagai Felician arranged by police.

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The State Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday asked the Tel Aviv District Court to release to house arrest Hagai Felician, who is charged with murdering two people and wounding dozens more in a shooting in 2009 at Barnoar, a youth center for LGBT teens in Tel Aviv. The prosecution cited new evidence that undermines the original indictment.

The recent disclosures have become the foundation for a new criminal investigation focusing on the state’s main witness in the case. The witness was arrested last week and remains in police custody. He is suspected of fabricating evidence and obstructing justice.

The rest of the details of the new investigation are under a court-approved gag order, at the request of the police. The decision to ask the court to release Felician was made by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan himself, in consultation with the police and the Tel Aviv District chief prosecutor.

The State Prosecutor’s Office said it is examining the all the evidence and will reconsider the prosecution of Felician, based on developments in the investigation. Anonymous sources in both the Israel Police and the prosecutor’s office say they believe the charges against Felician will be dismissed.

Earlier Wednesday, police in Tel Aviv arranged a face-to-face meeting between Felician and the state’s witness. The latter exercised his right to remain silent. Felician told the witness that the witness had “ruined my life,” and accused him of framing him.

“The police decided to believe him,” Felician’s brother told the court. “Police investigators spoke to [the state’s witness] in the past and found him was unreliable, but decided to believe him even though it was clear Hagai did not do it. I can say with certainty: The state’s witness knows exactly who killed in Barnoar. He sent them but decided to dump it on innocent people,” said Felician’s brother.

The witness was ordered on Tuesday to remain in custody for seven more days. He is said not to be cooperating with investigators. Police representatives told the court they believe the man lied to them.

The witness, a gay man, is believed to have been the original target of the shooting.

According to the charge sheet, Felician was hired to kill the witness, but when he went to Barnoar the night of August, 1, 2009 and realized the target was not there, he opened fire indiscriminately. Liz Troubeshi, 16, and youth counselor Nir Katz, 27, were killed in the attack and dozens more were wounded.

“We will make every effort to uncover the truth, or in other words, no innocents will be prosecuted,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said last week.

Felician was indicted in Tel Aviv District Court last July 2013 for the murders of Troubeshi and Katz and the attempted murder of 10 other people at Barnoar the night of the attack.

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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