Israeli Intelligence Officer Accused of Pimping Female Wardens to Palestinian Prisoners Fired

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev approved Rani Basha’s dismissal, years after an initial complaint filed by a female warden about the inmate’s sexual assault was “disappeared” by prison officers, thereby preventing it from being investigated

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Gilboa prison
Gilboa prisonCredit: Gil Eliahu
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A former prison intelligence officer who was accused of pimping female wardens to Palestinian inmates at Gilboa prison has been fired, heading off a months-long investigation.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev approved Rani Basha’s dismissal on Tuesday, after having been on involuntary leave since November.

Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry had recommended the dismissal. In a letter to her, Bar-Lev wrote that he agreed with her decision, “given the circumstances of the case, the nature of the acts the officer has confessed to and the evidence against him” on both the administrative and the criminal levels.

Basha, he continued, “severely violated his duties as a warden” and is “unfit to continue in the organization’s service.” Moreover, his dismissal is necessary “to prevent severe damage to the public’s faith in the organization and ensure the quality of the service.”

In December, State Prosecutor Amit Aisman ordered a new investigation into suspicions that Basha had transferred female wardens to a cellblock housing convicted Palestinian terrorists at the request of one of those prisoners, and that the inmate then sexually assaulted the women. He is suspected of failing to prevent a crime, abusing his office and breach of trust.

Prior to his dismissal, senior Prison Service officials said an initial complaint filed by a female warden about the inmate’s sexual assault was “disappeared” by prison officers, thereby preventing it from being investigated. But Basha’s alleged misconduct, which occurred from 2015 to 2017, attracted renewed public attention after Gilboa’s current commander, Freddy Ben-Sheetrit, told a government commission of inquiry into last September’s jailbreak that Basha had been “pimping” female wardens during their compulsory military service.

The alleged pimping had first been disclosed back in 2018 by Channel 20 television, which reported on a warden’s testimony that Mahmoud Atallah sexually assaulted her after Basha transferred her to Atallah’s cellblock at the Palestinian prisoner’s request. Atallah was eventually charged with sexual assaulting three wardens, but the investigation against Basha was closed due to lack of evidence.

During that investigation, Basha claimed that one of the wardens had been placed in the cellblock to collect intelligence.

In December, a male warden who previously served in the police unit that investigates misconduct by wardens said that Basha had been aware of Atallah’s behavior.

The inquiry committee into the jailbreak also learned in December that after Atallah’s conduct became known, disciplinary proceedings were launched against Basha by Arik Yaakov, who currently heads the Prison Service’s northern district but was then its deputy commander. Yaakov found that though Basha claimed to have warned Atallah not to harm the wardens, he failed to document this conversation, and also failed to report the incident to his superiors.

One of the female wardens who complained said during a previous interview with Haaretz that in November 2017, Atallah asked Basha to bring “the pretty warden” to his cellblock. After Basha complied, she said Atallah told her, “I told you that you were going to work with me.”

Basha later told investigators that he acceded to Atallah’s request in part because he was under pressure to produce intelligence from Palestinian prisoners belonging to the Fatah organization. Nevertheless, he said he didn’t know that Atallah planned to sexually assault the warden.

Shortly after the warden was transferred to that cellblock, Basha asked her to move Atallah to a different cellblock. It was during that move, she said, that Atallah sexually assaulted her.

She added that she complained to her superiors, but they responded with a campaign of harassment against her. Among other things, she said, she was removed from her warden’s position and assigned to clean the jail instead, until she finally quit the Prison Service.

Basha’s lawyer, Eyal Besserglick, said there was no evidence that his client had committed a crime and “no administrative reason for his dismissal, and we have no doubt the commissioner’s actions were intended to save herself by portraying herself in a different light” to the inquiry committee, since the jailbreak occurred during her tenure. He added that as soon as the official dismissal letter is received, he will start legal action to prevent the dismissal.

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