Israeli lawmaker Nissan Slomiansky from the Habayit Hayehudi party was questioned by police for alleged sexual harassment on Sunday morning.
Slomiansky was questioned under caution, or as someone who may be charged with a crime, after police acquired testimony of women who spoke about the alleged misconduct with a forum of rabbis. Some of them even testified to the police, claiming that Slomiansky sexually harassed them.
As part of the investigation, the police will try to reach an agreement with the women, or at least some of them, that will result in them filing official complaints against Slomiansky with police. However, even if this doesn't happen, the police believe that they already have enough material to justify opening an investigation.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit allowed the police to investigate the claims against the Knesset member last December. Sources in the police said that involving rabbis or attempting to find a solution directly with Slomiansky can't come at the expense of a check – or an investigation if necessary – if complaints are indeed filed and proven to be valid.
The scandal first became public in December when Habayit Hayehudi member Chagit Moriah-Gibor posted to a religious feminist group on Facebook that she, together with others, was attempting to gather evidence against a Knesset member who "has assaulted and is assaulting women for years." She called on women who were harassed or who know of harassment to turn to her, and promised complete confidentiality.
Moriah-Gibor said she received the five women's accounts of harassment and she herself heard the testimony of three women, but none had gone to police. Afterward, she and journalist Hadas Shatayef, who herself collected some testimonies, presented the material to a forum of rabbis.
After the allegations were made public, Slomiansky published a letter of apology but denied the claims against him. "I have never harassed women," he wrote. "It is possible that my warm and friendly behavior toward everyone regardless of who they are was occasionally misconstrued by some, and for that I am sorry."
"I've been told by different sources that they've received information from respected women who heard from other women that they were harmed by me," added the lawmaker. "I'm very hurt and sorry for that. I never intended to harm a woman or man and if some woman was offended, hurt or felt uncomfortable because of my behavior, I apologize for that and I would apologize in front of her from the bottom of my heart if I knew who she was. Since I don't know who it is, the mere thought that some harm was caused makes me feel deep sorrow and pain and I asked this message be conveyed honestly, in full strength to those to felt hurt."
Without substantial usable testimony and a formal complaint from at least one victim of alleged sexual harassment by Slomiansky, it will be hard for police to continue pursuing the case against him, police investigators said on Sunday.
The investigators said the incidents they are probing all involve crude behavior, but not all of them cross the border into criminality. Moreover, in some cases, the statute of limitations on the alleged offenses has already lapsed.
Police would therefore like to obtain a formal complaint from at least one woman whose harassment was recent enough that the statute of limitations hasn’t lapsed. Without such a complaint, they said, it seems unlikely that the Habayit Hayehudi MK will be summoned for further questioning.
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