Manager of Israeli Gay Youth Club Demands Compensation for Defamation

Shaul Ganon, the head of the Barnoar club that was attacked in 2009, was accused of having sex with a minor.

Daniel Bar-On

Shaul Ganon, the manager of the Barnoar gay club where two people were shot dead and 15 were wounded in 2009, is suing the state for 3.5 million shekels ($924,000) for defamation during a flawed investigation into the attack.

Ganon featured prominently in the case against Hagai Felician and his brother Benny; Hagai was an early suspect but turned out to have no connection to the attack.

A state’s witness, Zaor Hankishayev, led investigators astray by persuading them that Felician had shot up the youth club because Ganon allegedly had had sex with Benny, who was a minor at the time.

Ganon denied the suspicions at first, but before the case collapsed he signed a state’s witness agreement stating that “it is possible that the witness knows of a sexual incident that could have been a motive for the crime.” That came in exchange for receiving immunity from prosecution.

After it became clear that Hankishayev’s allegations were false, he was prosecuted and all charges against the Felicians were dropped. Last week an arbitration agreement was signed under which the state will pay the Felicians 2.2 million shekels in compensation.

Ganon’s file, however, was never closed and he is still barred from leaving the country.

“The image created of me was that I was some kind of serial rapist, even though I’ve never done anything like that in my life,” Ganon told Channel 2 on Monday. “I can’t find work; all they have to do is Google my name and if at first they were enthusiastic, after checking they get back to me and say ‘it won’t work out.’”

He denied any relationship with Benny Felician and accused the police of a sloppy investigation that caused him irreparable damage.

“That was the point – to break me and in the end make me admit to something I didn’t do. I never met anyone from the Felician family. I don’t know anything about them,” Ganon said.

“It was all just made up. [The police] just swallowed it. They accepted it in a way that borders on criminal negligence. They ruined my good name and ruined my life.”

The lawsuit, filed in Tel Aviv District Court by attorneys Oron Schwartz and Yogev Narkis, states: “This is a suit by someone the state chose to use as if he were an object, all in the name of solving a tragic mystery.”

As the attorneys put it, “Absent in this solution was any sense of introspection by the solvers, any judgment or professionalism, or the need to question. And this stemmed from a rampant desire, lacking any humanity or wisdom, to solve the mystery no matter what, even at the price of trampling on the plaintiff. Even when the injustice was revealed, the state took no steps to rectify it.”

Ganon is demanding 450,000 shekels for lost income and additional compensation for extreme distress, defamation, psychological mistreatment and projected lost wages.

The police and prosecution said they would respond to the lawsuit in court.