Eight boys between 14 and 16 from northern Israel have been arrested on suspicion of raping an 11-year-old girl multiple times over a period of weeks beginning in April.
They were released to house arrest after two days. A gag order on the case was lifted Tuesday; the boys were arrested around two weeks ago. Seven other minors were detained for questioning.
The police say they have text messages of a sexual nature between the girl and the suspects, who deny the allegations and say the girl “bugged” them, as they put it.
A person familiar with the investigation said the events came to light in May after the girl was reported missing. Her mother and police found her in the company of older boys. One of them, who is not a suspect, shouted out to the mother that the girl had been raped.
Despite the girl’s denials of having been raped, the police began investigating and the girl was removed from her home and placed in a center for youth. The family is known to the social services and the girl was a victim of sexual abuse in the past.
On May 28, around two weeks after the girl was found after being reported missing, she was interviewed by the police and again denied that the boys had raped her. The next day, the girl’s mother went to a local police station and told investigators that her daughter admitted to her that she had been raped.
According to the mother, the girl gave her and the family’s caseworker the names of her assailants. A child investigator tried a number of times to get the girl to open up to her, but the girl did not cooperate until last month. The police are trying to ascertain the role of each of the suspects in the alleged assaults.
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The social services department in the community where the girl lives said that on May 15 the on-call social worker was sent to the local police station and obtained an emergency commitment order for the girl’s placement in a juvenile shelter.
“The next day a report was sent to the police about the suspicion and a child investigation was requested,” social services said in a statement. “Child investigations aren’t the responsibility of social services, but rather of parole services. Due to the girl’s agitated mental state, she could only be questioned by a child investigator after a few days.”
Idit Shino, a lawyer representing the girl, says that mistakes by the police and social services are to blame for the release from custody of the boys who were arrested. She said the girl is in a very fragile mental state and is staying in an emergency center for at-risk youth.
“We don’t know where things stand in terms of the police and the prosecution, and we will act to ensure that justice is done,” Shino said.
Wasim Daher, a public defender representing six of the eight suspects who were arrested, said his clients denied all the allegations against them. “They are regular teens without criminal records,” he said. “The court found the complainant’s statements highly problematic and ordered their release. The district court even denied an appeal by the police against their release.”
The police said in a statement that an investigation was opened immediately after the report was received, and that investigators are briefing and meeting with officials from social services as required by law.
“We cannot give details, but we can say that this is a sensitive, complex and wide-ranging investigation that is being handled with the necessary sensitivity in light of the alleged news and the age of those involved,” they said.
The Social Services Ministry added that the case was complex, stressing its officials’ cooperation with the police. “Local and district welfare authorities are untiring in their efforts to protect, treat and rehabilitate the girl and the family,” the ministry said in a statement.
The welfare department in the community where the alleged events took place did not immediately respond Tuesday.
In another case, a 48-year-old man from the northern town of Karmiel was charged Wednesday with raping two minor girls aged 4 and 7 between 1999 and 2001.