The Israel Bar Association selected a former police officer who had been convicted of an indecent act against a sex worker to moderate a conference panel on domestic violence and false complaints.
After Haaretz inquired about the matter, the bar association decided to postpone the conference and change its format.
According to the bar association, the agenda for the conference, which was due to take place Monday in Netanya, was to have included an interview with a crime victim, to be conducted by a lawyer, Gal Sartov, who co-chairs the bar association’s central district prison service and police committee. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Sartov was convicted in 2007 of an indecent act against a female sex worker in Eilat.
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Court records indicate that Sartov committed the offense in 2004 while he was deputy head of the investigation unit of the Eilat district police. His conviction in Eilat Magistrate’s Court was based on his admission of wrongdoing. According to the testimony, Sartov found his victim in a taxi that he had stopped while he was on patrol in the city. He suspected her of being in Israel illegally and of being a sex worker. He ordered the woman to get into his police car and drove her to a secluded spot, where he forced her to have sexual contact with him, knowing that she was subject to deportation. He was convicted of having oral sex with her without her consent.
Retired Tel Aviv District Court Vice President Saviona Rotlevi publicly criticized the selection of Sartov to lead the panel, writing on Facebook the bar association’s choice was difficult for her to understand. Rothlevi shared a Facebook post from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, which was also highly critical of the decision to invite Sartov to lead the panel.
“The exaggerated preoccupation of the bar association with false complaints, intended to erode the victims’ credibility and make it even more difficult for them, is both dangerous and outrageous,” the rape crisis center stated. Israel Bar Association chairman Avi Himi retorted that the rape crisis center association’s statements were inaccurate with regard to the bar association’s activity as a whole and with respect to the Netanya conference in particular, which he said was to provide a forum for victims of sexual assault.
For his part, Sartov said that the events from his past that were the source of the controversy were “old history” and that anyone who would raise them “simply doesn’t know me and my extensive work for crime victims in general including female crime victims in particular, and that’s a shame.” Sartov called the rape association’s Facebook post false and libelous.
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The Bar Association responded that it works not only on behalf of the country’s lawyers, but also in the public interest. Following consultations, it added, it was decided to defer the conference and hold it in a different format, while taking “all of the positions into consideration.”