Police Questioned 24 Witnesses on ‘Pimping’ at Israeli Prison, but Case Was Closed

The State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the case after receiving the report examining the testimonies as part of the June 2018 investigation into the alleged 'pimping' of female prison guards

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Gilboa prison in northern Israel.
Gilboa prison in northern Israel.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Further testimony emerged Wednesday of alleged “pimping” of female prison guards who were then sexually assaulted by a senior Palestinian security prisoner at Gilboa Prison in Israel's north.

Batel Baddi, who heads the police unit that deals with human trafficking, told the Knesset Public Security Committee on Wednesday that in June 2018, police examined the testimony of 24 prison guards and complainants on suspicion that an intelligence officer at the Israel Prison Service had placed female guards in the security wing of the prison at the request of a prisoner who then sexually assaulted them.

“We received the findings of an examining officer at the Prison Service. There was an in-depth investigation, findings were handed over to the northern district of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which decided to close the case,” Baddi said.

Last week the police reopened the case on orders from Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and State Prosecutor Amit Aisman.

A number of sources privy to evidence in the case say that in 2018, a female guard at Gilboa filed an internal prison complaint against security prisoner Mahmoud Attallah, who was then the spokesman for the Fatah prisoners there, for allegedly sexually assaulting her. According to the sources, Gilboa Prison didn’t handle the complaint and buried it when the prison service began investigating the matter.

“They paid no attention to the guard and just made her complaint vanish,” said two sources. A senior prison service official said the complaint was covered up by Gilboa Prison commanders “to maintain industrial peace with the prisoners and to protect the intelligence officer.” The sources said the intelligence officer admitted in questioning that he transferred the female guard to the security ward after Attallah mentioned her name to him, but vehemently denied pimping her.

Attallah was tried for the assault of three female guards while they were escorting him between wings and cell blocks in the prison. According to the indictment filed in 2020 in Nazareth Magistrate’s Court, the assaults included bodily contact and sexual statements.

In her police testimony, one of the guards said the intelligence officer used her “as bait for the prisoner.” The officer denied this, and claimed he was not responsible for placement of guards and had no idea that the prisoner intended to harm the guards. Sources at the prosecutor's office said the guards did not complain against the officer, and that eventually the case against him was closed due to insufficient evidence that he was aware of the prisoner’s actions.

It was only after a request by Channel 20 for comment from the prison service that the national unit that investigates prison guard misconduct began to look into the case. According to prison service officials, the intelligence officer has not been brought up on disciplinary charges and continued to work for the prison service after the closure of criminal proceedings against him.

Last week, the police reopened their probe into the case and are expected to question the current Gilboa Prison commander, Freddy Ben Shitrit, after he said that guards “pimped” soldiers in the prison. Ben Shitrit, who was not commander at the time of the assaults, is expected to be questioned by members of the national prison guard investigations unit about assaults on female guards who have yet to testify, if any such exist.

The head of the IDF’s personnel planning and administration division, Amir Vadmani, told the Knesset committee hearing that “anyone placed in units outside the military will be checked by us. We hold ourselves responsible for every last soldier.” He added that soldiers who do not wish to serve in the prison service will not be placed there. “We are obligated to place 768 soldiers, male and female, with the prison service, but this year we placed 622,” he noted.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi announced on Wednesday that a team would be formed and headed by the IDF’s human resources chief Yaniv Asor to examine compulsory service outside of the military’s own units – in the prison service and police.

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