Israeli Police Probing Transfer of Prison Guards at Request of Palestinian Inmate Who Sexually Assaulted Them

Police is set to probe a complaint by three female guards who claim the inmate, who's been sentenced for life, harassed them; guards say they were transferred following demand by prison intel officer

The Gilboa Prison where the alleged assault on female prison guards took place.
Itzik Ben Malki

The National Prison Wardens Investigation Unit will investigate a claim that officials at the Gilboa Prison transferred a female guard to a security wing at the request of a Palestinian prisoner serving a life sentence there who is accused of sexually abusing the guard.

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According to a Channel 20 report, one of the guards said inmate Muhammad Atallah grabbed her buttocks. Afterwards, two additional guards complained that the transfer had been carried out at the request of an intelligence officer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel (equivalent to the rank of police superintendent) who serves in the prison.

The request for the guards’ transfer apparently came as part of an arrangement between the officer and Atallah, a Fatah man who is considered one of the senior inmates in the prison. He was convicted of murdering a Palestinian woman in Ramallah in 2003 who was suspected of collaborating with Israel.

“The security prisoner saw me and told me to come and work in my wing. I replied, ‘Absolutely not,’” one of the guards was quoted as saying to Channel 20.

“One day, the commander of my shift told me that the intelligence officer demanded that I go to work in the prisoner’s wing. I said I did not want to. The commander replied, ‘They demanded you be there.’ At first I refused to enter. This is a prisoner who is given a lot of respect in prison.”

The police are investigating the allegations against Atallah. Meanwhile, he has been transferred to Hadarim Prison.

On Wednesday an investigating officer appointed by the Israel Prison Service sent preliminary findings in the case to the National Unit for Prisoner Investigations, which is attached to Lahav 433, known colloquially as the ‘Israeli FBI.’

Ofra Klinger, commissioner of the Israel Prison Service, received the findings of the investigation. The Knesset Interior Affairs Committee is expected to discuss the case and invite Klinger to the hearing.

The Prison Service said in a statement: “In light of the initial findings of the examination, the Prisons Service commissioner ordered that the findings be transferred to the National Unit for Prisoner Investigations, in order to examine the opening of a criminal investigation into the matter. The commissioner also immediately ordered the strengthening of the treatment and support to the wardens who are feared to have been harmed.”