Demobilized Soldier Arrested on Suspicion of Committing Multiple Price Tag Attacks

Jerusalem District Court rejects state's appeal against release of three other suspected 'price-tag' vandals.

Hours after Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran discovered graffiti calling for her murder on the walls of her house on Tuesday, police arrested a man they suspect of committing several similar crimes over the last few months.

But on Wednesday, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the state's appeal against the release of three other suspected "price-tag" vandals, marking the latest in a string of such arrests that have ultimately fizzled.

suspect in the vandalism - Michal Fattal - 10112011
Michal Fattal

The graffiti suspect, whose arrest was announced only yesterday, is a 21-year-old newly demobilized soldier from Mevasseret Zion whose mother is a police officer and whose father works for the Defense Ministry. His name remains under a gag order.

In September, he was detained for telephone threats against Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer, but was released after questioning. This time, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court remanded him for six days, during which he will be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Police suspect him of several graffiti attacks in the Jerusalem area in recent months, including spray-painting "death to Arabs" on the light rail station in Jerusalem's Shuafat neighborhood and at an Israel Scouts clubhouse in Mevasseret. They also suspect him of a bomb threat against Peace Now's Jerusalem office a few days ago. The office was evacuated, but no bomb was found.

The man confessed to some charges, including vandalizing an Arab car at Sha'ar Binyamin in the West Bank a few weeks ago, but not to the vandalism at Ofran's house. He told police he committed the crimes because he "hates Arabs and hates leftists." But he later retracted his confession, which his lawyer said was extracted by pressure.

Peace Now also doubted he was behind the attack on Ofran, saying it believes this was the work of an "organized gang."

The district court's ruling related to an indictment for conspiracy to commit a crime against Hillel Leibowitz, Yisrael Katz and a minor. The three were arrested near Wadi Ara in March. Police found three bottles of gasoline in their car. The suspects claimed the bottles were there in case they ran out of gas. Some months later, the cop who arrested them recalled that they also had matches, and prosecutors decided that provided enough evidence to indict them. But a lower court rejected their request to remand them until the end of the proceedings.

Yesterday, the district court upheld this decision, saying "The law enforcement agencies attested by their own conduct that they didn't attribute any particular danger to the defendants: The investigation of their case was conducted lackadaisically; no one bothered to collect detailed evidence from the beat cop."

It also said there were serious questions about the evidence against them.