Israeli Psychiatric Patient Talked to Cats. He Was Charged With Threatening Netanyahu

The police have asked that the man be kept in custody, but the judge says testimony shows the patient never threatened to hurt Netanyahu

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A man was charged with threatening to hurt Israel's Prime Minister. The subject has no connection to the content of the article.
A man was charged with threatening to hurt Israel's Prime Minister. The subject has no connection to the content of the article.Credit: Olivia Pitusi

The police filed charges this month against a psychiatric patient for allegedly threatening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but a volunteer nurse says the man made his remarks while talking to himself and cats near the facility where he is hospitalized.

The man in his 40s, who is under forced hospitalization, reportedly said that he “has a plan if Bibi is elected," adding that he "has a gun and an army.”

The patient, who has appeared several times at protests outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, told investigators that he is dealing with psychological issues and never planned to hurt Netanyahu.

The police said the case was opened due to a complaint by a volunteer nurse. It is unclear whether the volunteer filed the complaint on her own or if the police approached her after being tipped off.

When placed under arrest, the patient denied having made the remarks and the police then questioned 16 other people about the matter.

Last week the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court criticized the police’s move to have the patient charged. “Based on the testimony of the volunteers, the accused did not threaten to hurt the prime minister at all but said general things about a ‘revolutionary’ plan,” the court said.

“It appears that since he spoke to cats in the yard, these remarks were uttered to no one. It’s hard to see these remarks amounting to a crime or threats.”

One volunteer told the police: “I was in a conversation with the patient and heard him talking to himself. He said all sorts of things, he played a lot of songs through his speaker, [he said] he heads an army and there's going to be a revolution in March. That’s basically it. He walked around the yard, talked to the cats and talked about having bought a fast-charging cable for his phone.”

The investigator asked the volunteer whether the patient “used the term 'revolution,'” and she replied, “He talked about March 23 in the context of a revolution or change, something like that.”

A volunteer who was summoned twice by the police said she heard the patient in the yard talking about how “if Bibi wins he has a plan, he has a gun and an army.”

When the investigator asked this volunteer if the patient wanted to physically harm Bibi, she said “no, only what I said.”

When he asked if the patient sounded decisive regarding his remarks, she said, “I couldn’t say, I don’t know what condition he was in .… But in any case, it’s a psychiatric ward, people are on medication. It isn’t surprising that others didn’t respond to what he said.”

The patient says he never planned to hurt Netanyahu. “I am ill and am trying to take care of myself,” he told investigators.

“I understood that I have to take better care of myself instead of going to demonstrations. I didn’t say that I would hurt Netanyahu. The fact I don’t like him is one thing, but I never said any such thing. I said my head isn’t right. Do I have an army? Seriously, that can’t be true.”

Still, the police want him charged and even asked that his detention be extended for the duration of the legal proceedings. Last week  Judge Itai Hermelin said that “prosecutors should more seriously examine the evidence before charging a person for threatening to hurt the prime minister.”

Judge Itai Hermlin Credit: Olivia Pitusi

Hermelin said the patient “was under psychiatric observation as part of another case, after which it was decided that he is unfit to stand trial.” The man is also suspected of having assaulted police officers.

The judge also found no evidence to justify keeping the patient in custody. Still, the police intend to further pursue the case.

“Something that sounds like a Kafkaesque story is reality to the police,” said the patient's attorney, Kobi Sudri. “It’s neither legal nor moral, devoid of any conscience. That’s exactly how the police look, abusing their power to serve political interests.”

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