Israel Police Question Social Activist Over Alleged Gag Order Violation in Facebook Post

Incident marks escalation of police enforcement of such orders, which are aimed at journalists, not civilians

Alon Kastiel in Tel Aviv District Court, December 2016.
Moti Milrod

Police questioned a social activist on Wednesday on suspicion of violating a gag order regarding the case of Alon Kastiel, who was charged with rape, attempted rape and indecent acts in December 2016.

The activist wrote in a Facebook post some two months ago that a friend of Kastiel’s was suspected of obstructing the investigation, although the man’s name had been banned for publication.

This marks a significant escalation of police action against those suspected of breaching a judge’s gag order, which is designed to stop journalists from publishing information that might compromise a case. In this case police questioned a civilian who, unlike a journalist covering a case, is unlikely to know about the gag order in the first place. The penalty for violating a gag order is half a year in prison.

The suspect said that despite his requests, the activist did not remove the post until two weeks later. She maintains she did remove it, as soon as she found out about the gag order. The activist was questioned by police for an hour and a half on Wednesday.

Kastiel is a Tel Aviv real estate entrepreneur and nightclub owner, who, after being charged, was placed in indefinite custody. The indictment against him describes six different incidents of alleged rape, attempted rape or indecent acts against six women.

About two months ago Kastiel’s friend complained to the police that two women had violated a gag order and published his name. When police failed to investigate his complaint, he said, he wrote to the judge who had issued the gag order and demanded an investigation of the women for contempt of court.

Seven months after the investigation was opened, the State Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t decided yet whether to indict the suspect, whose name was banned from publication, or to close the case.

The suspicion of obstructing the investigation arose after police examined Kastiel’s correspondence with his friends, at the time the investigation against him started. Kastiel himself hasn’t been charged for obstructing the course of justice.

The prosecution refused to comment on the probe into the gag-order violation, saying only that “the file against the suspect is being examined and no decision has been made yet.”

Police said they received a complaint about breach of privacy and violation of a court-issued gag order. A suspect was questioned about these offenses and released under limitations, they said.

They also said that as a rule, the police investigate gag-order breaches, although the media and public don’t always know it.