Israeli Prosecutors to Reexamine Indictment in COVID Quarantine Hotel Rape Case

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Yarin Sherf in court, last week.
Yarin Sherf in court, last week.

Israel's State Prosecution announced on Friday that it would reevaluate the indictment against Yarin Sherf that charged him with having prohibited consensual sexual relations with a minor at a hotel used for quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The hotel was designated for youths at risk. The 13-year-old girl complained that Sherf had raped her, but prosecutors chose to charge the man with a lesser offense due to questions raised concerning her consent, and because the man believed she was 14.

Under the law, having sexual relations with someone under 14 is statutory rape.

The girl told an investigator that she had not agreed to have sex with Sherf and that he had been violent. The investigator believed her account, although there was some concern regarding the issue of consent.

Prosecutors had doubts about her denial of consent based on the fact that she had opened the door for him and had sent him her photo on Instagram after the incident.

The choice of a lesser offense has evoked protests by the girl’s family and women’s organizations. The girl’s mother and Amit Hadad, the family’s attorney, said that “this was a case of rape, and any other interpretation is false.

"The prosecution’s decision gives a green light and legitimizes the next rape," they added. "We won’t rest until the rapist gets a penalty reflecting the full measure of the law for the grave act he committed.”

Acting State Attorney Amit Isman said on Friday that he had decided to look into the case “with the required urgency,” and will do so early this week.

Sherf has been charged with two counts of prohibited consensual sex with a minor, one count of sexual harassment, issuing threats, assault and giving an intoxicating beverage to a minor.

Dana Meitav, the executive director of the Women’s Network, said it was “inconceivable that the state goes easy on a violent and dangerous 21-year-old man while abandoning a 13-year-old girl who was subjected to violence, threats and incessant harassment and pressure.

“Let’s not forget that the girl was under the supervision of welfare services when she was attacked. No one has provided any explanations.”

Meitav added that the lobby group had sent 15,000 emails on this matter. “We won’t stop trying with all our might until the girl sees justice done, as she deserves, and until the dangerous message given so lightly and carelessly is amended.”

Vered Vindman, CEO of the National Council for the Child, said in response to the prosecutor’s earlier decision that “free consent” in the case of a 13-year-old girl at risk, staying in a place she can’t leave and subjected to threats and attacks, is impossible.

“The acting State Prosecutor did well in deciding to review the decision. We welcome this and hope a new decision will take into account the special circumstances as described in the indictment, including the assault and threats, the fact that she is a girl who’s described as at-risk, and the fact that the incident occurred at a hotel for at-risk youths.”

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