Israeli Soccer Player Suspected of Drunken Hit-and-run That Injured Two

Itzhak Asefa of M.S. Ashdod says he’s innocent ■ Judge says he ‘abandoned two minors thrown on the road in a pool of their own blood’

A game between F.C. Ashdod and Maccabi Tel Aviv, March 3, 2018
Nir Keidar

A professional soccer player arrested this week on suspicion of a hit-and-run in Tel Aviv had been driving drunk at the time of the accident, police said on Wednesday. The motorist injured two teens – one of them critically – on the night between Sunday and Monday.

Itzhak Asefa, a member of the M.S. Ashdod soccer team, is suspected of running over two 16-year-olds who were riding electric bicycles. Asefa, 20, is also suspected of abandoning the teens after the accident, driving while drunk and causing grievous injury.

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ro’i Perry said the circumstances were all the more grave because Asefa was a novice driver, and had been driving drunk. However, the judge said “the root of all evil” was “abandoning two minors thrown onto the road, in a pool of their blood, while the suspect drove on.” He said the suspect’s “ugly” acts indicated he was dangerous and displayed “anti-social behavior.”

The judge said evidence showed Asefa purchased alcohol for a considerable sum of money before the accident, and that the invoices for the drinks were incompatible with his version of the purchases at the time of his arrest.

Asefa is reserving the right to remain silent and is not cooperating with the investigation, police said.

Police told the court that Asefa abandoned the victims after the accident and fled the scene. A blood test showed an alcohol concentration five times higher than permitted for a driver of his age, police said.

Asefa’s lawyer, Alon Schlichter, said his client was innocent. He accused police of leaking numerous details from the case, saying in court that these details were confidential and that releasing them could obstruct the investigation. “We must not assist this kangaroo court taking place in the last two days in the media,” he said.

The court ordered police to complete the investigation by Thursday; the defense is demanding his release by then, Schlichter said.

Two other soccer players, Omer Lakau of Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Or Dasa of Hapoel Ra’anan, who were with Asefa before the accident, were questioned by police on suspicion of obstructing the investigation, although only Asefa had driven the car. According to a source familiar with the case, Lakau and Dasa drove together in another car and witnessed the hit-and-run.

The two were released under restrictions, and Lakau was placed under house arrest for five days. They told police that they had spent time together at a club on the night of the accident, and also went to a birthday party held for Dasa. The source said their story corroborates the suspicions against Asefa.

M.S. Ashdod said in response that Asefa is a “young, positive player and possibly made a mistake. … While the investigation is ongoing, we support him and are helping with his legal defense.”