Suspicions of sexual offences, including rape, against an Israel Defense Forces brigadier general were upheld by a military judge on Tuesday night. The investigation against Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris is now expected to move into high gear.
Buchris, 47, is finishing his role as the commander of the IDF's Command and Staff College and was due to head the Operations Division. In his previous roles, he headed a division in the Northern Command and the Golani infantry brigade.
Buchris, who was seriously wounded in Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002, was awarded a chief of staff citation for his performance as a battalion commander. Buchris is married and a father of six who resides in a religious community in the Galilee.
"Sufficient evidence has been gathered to provide a basis for the suspicions against the officer," the judge ruled, in a special court martial convened at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Buchris, who is suspected of sexual offences against a female soldier serving under him, has been suspended from duty until the conclusion of the investigation against him.
The prosecution told the court martial that the brigadier general is suspected of serious sexual offences, including five counts of rape, sodomy and indecent assault over a long period.
Buchris denied having sexual relations with the soldier and his counsel submitted to the court a polygraph conducted on Sunday.
"This investigation took him by surprise, not to say shock, two days ago," the officer's defense counsel told the court. "He previously had to deal with the complaint of a soldier in the past that he had sexual relations with her by abusing his authority over her.
"He completely denies the charges against him."
The military prosecution expressed its opposition to the defense's request to maintain a gag order on publishing the name of the brigadier general, as well as that of the female soldier and any other complainants.
The public interest requires that the names of the people involved be released, the prosecution argued, because "the offences were committed on a subordinate in both rank and status."
The IDF military police began investigating the case on Sunday, after a reserve soldier complained that her commander assaulted her sexually about four years ago, when relations between them were bad. The officer was investigated at the time.
In light of the complaint, deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan suspended the brigadier general for the duration of the investigation.
It has not yet been decided whether to cancel his promotion to a key position in the army.
The suspension of the officer is the second of its kind in less than a week. Last Thursday, the Southern Command suspended a battalion commander on suspicion that he had conducted an affair with a female officer serving under him.
The woman, a captain, was also suspended. The criminal investigation division is also investigating this case, in which the battalion commander denies the allegations.
The army says the number of sex crime investigations it has undertaken has been stable at around 125 annually over the last two years, but the number of rape complaints has risen to 12 last year from eight in 2014 and five in 2013.
According to an officer in the military police, the army has ensured that the investigating officer is at least of the same rank as the accused in the case of the brigadier general.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now