Israeli Murder Suspect’s Family Had Sought to Have Him Hospitalized for Mental Issues

Kfir Atiya, 36, is suspected of a fatal stabbing near the victim’s home in Netanya, in central Israel

An ambulance in the central Israeli town of Netanya, on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
Magen David Adom

Relatives of a man suspected of committing a murder in Netanya on Sunday say they sought to have him hospitalized three days before the murder, but the district’s chief psychiatrist rejected the request.

Kfir Atiya, 36, is suspected of stabbing David Agayev to death near the victim’s Netanya home. At a court hearing on Wednesday, his lawyer, Itai Binun, said the family had contacted its health maintenance organization on August 7 because Atiya’s mental state had gotten worse.

The HMO referred him for psychiatric evaluation, and a committee comprised of a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker decided he should be hospitalized within 48 hours. But the district psychiatrist overruled that decision, saying he shouldn’t be hospitalized, Binun said.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ordered Atiya held without bail until Monday. Judge Ophir Katavi-Rivlin also ordered him sent for psychiatric evaluation, noting that there is some evidence of mental illness.

But the evaluation will be conducted by the same psychiatrist whom the family accuses of rejecting its request that Atiya be hospitalized. Binun charged that the psychiatrist will therefore have a conflict of interest.

Atiya has denied committing the murder, and Binun argued that there’s no evidence against him except his conviction a decade ago for attacking Agayev with an iron bar. He was recently released from prison after serving nine years for that offense.

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“We read the [Facebook] post by the daughter of the deceased, in which she accuses the suspect,” Binun said. “You can understand the daughter, but this still isn’t evidence.”

But Katavi-Rivlin disagreed, saying there was enough evidence to justify keeping Atiya in jail.

“I don’t know if the crime was committed by the suspect; we don’t know who committed it,” Binun said after the hearing. “But I can tell you that his parents thought he was a kind of ticking bomb, and it’s a pity he wasn’t hospitalized, whether he did or didn’t do the deed. His mental state has been really bad recently.”

“We begged them to hospitalize him, but they didn’t listen to us,” Atiya’s mother added.

“Go ask the district psychiatrist why he didn’t hospitalize him,” Atiya’s uncle said bitterly. “Four people said to hospitalize him, but he said no.”

The Health Ministry said that for reasons of medical confidentiality, it could not divulge details about Atiya’s case. Moreover, it said, it cannot discuss cases that are currently in court.

Police suspect that Atiya killed Agayev, a 73-year-old money changer, due to a long-standing feud with his family. At one time, he was in a relationship with Agayev’s daughter, but when she left him, he began persecuting and attacking members of her family.

About a decade ago, he was convicted of attacking and seriously wounding Agayev because he was angry that Agayev’s daughter had married another man. Earlier, he had spent three and a half years in prison for robbing a Netanya bank in 2002.

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Four months ago, after Atiya got out of jail, Agayev’s family asked the police for protection against him. But according to Agayev’s daughter, Bar Vichman, the police told her there was nothing they could do, since Atiya had completed his prison term.

According to a police source, Vichman came to social services four months ago and said she was scared because Atiya was about to be released from prison. After social services reported this to the police, Vichman and her father were summoned to a meeting with a social worker. But when police asked if they were being threatened at that time, Vichman replied that they weren’t; they were only worried because of past events. She also refused an offer to go to a shelter.

“We couldn’t arrest him on some vague suspicions,” the source said. “He didn’t threaten them from prison. They only suspected him.”

During Atiya’s trial for assaulting Agayev in December 2009, Agayev testified that ever since his daughter broke up with Atiya in 2000, Atiya had committed numerous acts of vandalism against the family. At one point, he even stabbed Agayev’s son-in-law, but the son-in-law didn’t go to the police, Agayev said.

The police said Atiya has committed multiple crimes since 1996, including crimes of violence, sexual offense and burglary.