An army battalion commander who sexually harassed two of his subordinates was convicted in a plea bargain Thursday of conduct unbecoming an officer.
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Under the deal, Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi admitted to the charges and will leave the army next month. He will also pay a fine of 5,000 shekels ($1,290) and be given a suspended jail sentence.
But the question of whether he will also be demoted will be decided only at a sentencing hearing next month. The prosecution wants the former Givati Brigade officer demoted by “at least” one rank, while the defense objects.
May Fatal, one of the women Hajbi harassed, came to the military court in Tel Aviv Thursday to protest the plea bargain. Chief military prosecutor Col. Udi Ben-Eliezer also read out a letter she wrote to the court.
“My emotional situation isn’t simple, and I’d prefer not to carry all this baggage over time,” the letter said. “I have no problem with him being convicted of the offenses in the plea bargain, but I’m not willing under any circumstances for it not to mention that the defendant sexually harassed me on multiple occasions – 36 times.”
At one point, Fatal’s attorney, Roni Aloni-Sadovnik, asked that the hearing be closed to the public, since the case involved sexual offenses. Hajbi’s attorney, military defender Col. Asher Halperin, then retorted, “Even if ‘sexual offenses’ is being said for the ninth time, it isn’t true. It isn’t in the indictment.”
Under the plea bargain, Hajbi was charged not with sex crimes, but with “acts that deviated from [proper] superior-subordinate relations, some of which had a sexual background.”
“The defense doesn’t see any sex crime at all here,” Aloni-Sadovnik said after the hearing. “It’s trying to define this as a romantic pursuit that got totally out of control. But there is no such thing in a place where there’s a relationship of authority – worker and employer, commander and subordinate, lecturer and student...
“We agreed to the deal if it included the 36 incidents,” she continued. “We think this was sexual harassment according to the law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and this should have been reflected in some way. We’re sorry that wasn’t done.”
Halperin responded that “In this case, two trials are taking place simultaneously – one in the media and one in the court...
“The deal stipulates that the charge is conduct unbecoming, not sexual offenses,” he added. “Nobody did Lt. Col. Hajbi a favor with this deal. It reflects exactly what’s in the evidence. For the first time, we understand that the complainant has agreed to the plea bargain. The officer confessed to and was convicted of the indictment as submitted to the court, and he will be judged on the things he did, not on the things he didn’t do.”
Ben-Eliezer told reporters that “Unlike many people who appear in the media and talk, the military prosecution is familiar with all the evidence. The facts in the submitted indictment faithfully reflect what is in the evidence.”