Entertainer Dudu Topaz Indicted for Attacks on TV Execs

Topaz, who was hospitalized last week after attempting to commit suicide in his cell, is under 24-hour observation.

One of Israel's most famous entertainers was charged Thursday with hiring thugs to assault top Israeli media executives he blamed for keeping him off the air.

A Tel Aviv district court indicted Dudu Topaz on charges including assault and battery, conspiracy to commit a crime, extortion and obstruction of justice. He was ordered to stay in jail until his trial is over.

The 62-year-old entertainer's popular variety shows made him a household name and earned him the moniker, the ratings king. But in recent years, his career has been on the wane.

Topaz initially denied involvement in the attacks on two TV executives and a prominent agent, but later confessed to ordering the assaults, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. While in custody, Topaz - a diabetic - attempted suicide by injecting himself with an overdose of insulin, police said.

Since his arrest three weeks ago, the saga has become a top news story, sometimes pushing the government's differences with the U.S. and Palestinian violence in the West Bank off front pages.

Topaz also has been accused of planning to attack his ex-wife and prominent Israeli entertainers who reportedly shunned his attempts to make a comeback, but no charges have been pressed.

In 1995, Topaz attacked a TV critic and broke his glasses after he gave a scathing review of Topaz's show. Topaz was sued and paid the critic about $20,000 in compensation.

He's also gotten in trouble before for kissing a radio reporter against her will, pinching a TV presenter's cheek and biting the arm of a Latin American soap opera star.

In 1981, Topaz was credited with inadvertently helping re-elect the hawkish Likud Party in after he derided its supporters as riffraff while speaking at a rally for the centrist Labor Party just before parliamentary elections that year.

The comment was taken as an ethnic slur directed at Israelis of Mideastern descent and is thought to have pushed swing voters to the Likud.