Police are trying to persuade a well-known gay community activist to turn state’s witness and testify against other suspects being held in the 2009 shooting rampage at a Tel Aviv gay youth club.
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The activist is himself a suspect in the Barnoar club attack in which a gunman shot two teenagers dead and injured 15. Police earlier this week said the attack had been carried out to avenge the alleged sexual assault of a minor, by the activist.
Police are convinced that the activist refuses to admit to having sexual contact with the minor only because he fears for his life.
Hagai Felician, the main suspect, allegedly fired into Barnoar after a relative told him he had been assaulted by the activist, police say.
The activist will be brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for the third time on Thursday for the extension of his remand. In the absence of an agreement to turn state’s witness, the judge is expected to release him to house arrest.
Police detectives are trying to persuade the activist to admit to having sexual contact with the minor. That testimony would refute the claims of the other three suspects who say they don’t know him.
The activist’s attorney, Ran Alon, would not comment on the matter, saying only “I hope my client is released to go home on Friday.”
On Wednesday, police detectives searched the homes of the three murder suspects’ relatives, hoping to find mobile phones to help in the ongoing investigation.
In the last few days the suspects were confronted with the state’s witness in the case − an offender who admitted he had helped to plan the murder at the Barnoar center. At his meeting with the suspects, the witness repeated to the suspects conversations he had with them before and after the murder and told them he had decided to expose their identity because they had turned their back on him.
He also said he felt the need to bring the affair to an end, because innocent people had died and were injured in the shooting.
The suspects, however, argued that the witness, who is gay, wanted to hurt them because he had expected them to help him to blackmail a member of the gay community. They denied the state’s witness’ statement and said he had made it all up.
Meanwhile, fearing for the witness’ life after his name appeared on the social networks, the Tel Aviv Police Central Unit decided to place him in the witness protection program. The man is currently protected round the clock by police commandos.
In the past few days the Prosecutor’s Office and Witness Protection Authority in the Public Security Ministry have begun tailoring a full protection program for the state’s witness.
Although he does not meet all the criteria for entering the costly protection program, police persuaded the Witness Protection Authority to enable him to join the program, arguing that he was helping to solve one of the most grave crimes in Israel.
The witness, who is expected to enter the program within the next few days, will be given a monthly wage and protected living quarters until he testifies at the trial. After that there will be a decision about whether he leaves Israel, as most state’s witnesses have done since the program was introduced.
The witness will be required to sign a contract stipulating that if the information he provides turns out to be wrong, or if he breaks the program’s rules, the Witness Protection Authority will not be bound to protect him.
In another case, the authority is considering revoking the witness protection agreement made with the state’s witness in the trial against felon Riko Shirazi, after Shirazi’s attorneys claimed the witness had broken the rules.