Arson Attack on Judge's Car May Be Case of Mistaken Identity

Police in Acre yesterday looked into the possibility that the torching of a Haifa judge's car was in fact intended for a police prosecutor who lives next door.

Haifa District Court Judge Moshe Gilad, whose car was set on fire early yesterday morning, was provided later in the day with a court-sanctioned security detail.

Gilad, who since the incident is also under police protection, was seen leaving the Haifa Courts building yesterday evening alongside bodyguards from the court's security agency.

A police cruiser is stationed near Gilad's home in Acre. The decision to beef up security around Gilad followed consultations among top Galilee District police brass.

Police officials believe that Gilad is in the highest risk category, which necessitates employing extensive security measures to protect him, including the deployment of armed guards and the installation of electronic surveillance equipment at his home.

Law enforcement officials said yesterday that the central unit of the Galilee District police should oversee the arson investigation.

"Causing harm to a judge or any other member of law enforcement causes harms to a government symbol and to democracy," said Major General Shimon Koren, commander of the Israel Police Northern District.

"The police will take action on all levels and will allocate means and resources in order to apprehend the perpetrators," Koren said yesterday.

A court-issued gag order, requested by police, prohibits media outlets from revealing details of the investigation as well as evidence that has been gathered thus far.

Investigators told Haaretz yesterday that it is too early to draw conclusions about the crime or to link the arson with rulings by Gilad in criminal cases.

Before being appointed to the bench Gilad worked as a defense attorney. His clients included a number of prominent organized crime families in the north. One of the most prominent of his clients was Michael Mor, who was recently released from prison and has relocated to Eilat.

"We are checking all possible angles," a senior police officer who is very knowledgeable about the details of the investigation said yesterday.

Gilad and his family have remained tight-lipped about the incident. His wife, Aviva Gilad, who serves on the Acre City Council, and his son, Ziv Gilad, a practicing attorney, declined comment.

"We have no intention of commenting on these events at this stage, and we do not want to disrupt the work of the police," Ziv Gilad told Haaretz. "We trust the police to do its job faithfully."

Figures who are in contact with the Gilads said that the family was very surprised by the arson, in light of the fact that its members have not received any threats and that Moshe Gilad had not been provided with any security since his appointment to the bench two years ago.

Family associates said that the Gilads do not rule out the possibility that the entire affair is a case of mistaken identity.

"The judge is not afraid and he continues to work as usual," one associate who recently met with the family told Haaretz. "In fact he has not even changed his daily routine and he is waiting for the police to get to the bottom of this."

Acre Mayor Shimon Lancry said yesterday that he has information indicating that the arsonists came from outside the city.

Lancry also noted that the Gilads live next door to a police prosecutor who has been targeted in the past by criminals.

In addition, Gilad and his neighbor drive cars that are similar in appearance.

The prosecutor's husband owns a silver Mercedes; Gilad's car is a similar design and color. Both vehicles are regularly parked in the same lot, adjacent to the row of single-family homes along the Acre shore where they live.

"In any event, this is a grave event and an issue that demands attention on all levels," Lancry said.