Israeli Police Investigate Claims Prisoner Raped Female Guard

The prison guard claims the intelligence officer at the prison placed her in the security prisoner's wing at the inmate's request

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, in 2021.
Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, in 2021.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Police are investigating suspicions that a security prisoner raped a female prison guard four times at Gilboa Prison in 2015, and committed indecent acts on two other guards. This was revealed after the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order at the request of Haaretz and Ynet.

The guard who complained she was raped told police that the prison intelligence officer at the time, Nissim Finish, assigned her to the wing at the prisoner’s request. Judge Erez Melamed accepted the request by the prisoner’s attorney to ban his name until a hearing later this week.

The unit that investigates allegations of misconduct by prison personnel first approached the female prison guard in 2018 after receiving intelligence about sexual offenses at the Gilboa Prison. At the time, she did not cooperate with investigators in the unit, which is part of the national crimes and corruption unit Lahav 443.

In December 2021, after the investigation was resumed because the prisoner had allegedly assaulted female prison guards, police turned again to the guard and she filed a complaint against the prisoner for indecent acts.

That same month, the prisoner told security officials of his own volition that he had had consensual sex with the prison guard during her service at the prison; however, police and the prosecution decided not to launch an investigation.

In June this year the prison guard came to Lahav 443 investigators and testified that the prisoner had raped her twice in an area of the prison that is not under camera surveillance nor are there alarm buttons. The guard said she remembered the rape following psychological treatment.

Last month she testified again and said the prisoner raped her four times, and that her commanding officers had left her alone with him repeatedly. She said the male prison guards would call her the prisoner’s lover.

She told police the prisoner explained to her that he was protecting her against another security prisoner in the wing, Amjad Awad, one of the men convicted of murdering the Fogel family from Itamar in 2011. He said he did this after Awad threw oil at her.

Gilboa Prison in northen Israel, in 2021.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

The prison guard said she complained to intelligence officer Finish, and in one case Finish told her to “ignore him.” In another case, she said Finish told her that Awad had indeed threatened her, but when she asked to be removed from that wing he told her to calm down. She said that at one point, Finish ordered prison service officers to send her for a shift to a guard tower because she did not fulfill his requests.

“He’s the commander of the prison,” he decides everything,” the guard told investigators. Finish was interrogated on Wednesday at Lahav 443 and denied all charges against him.

The guard testified that at first the prisoner touched her inappropriately when he was transferred from one wing to another and was not cuffed. According to her complaint, during the last year of her service his harassment continued and in one case her commanders sent her to count the prisoners in the canteen, and she was left alone with him and other prisoners, at which time he raped her.

She said this happened three more times. After the first time, she said, the intelligence officer came to the place when he heard the cell door slam, and smiled at the prisoner. In another case, she said the prison commanders came to the spot after the rape and saw that the guard was pale and frightened.

“I was afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid he would hurt me and I was ashamed,” she told investigators. “He terrorized me. I was like a tool of his.” She also said that months after her release from the army, the prisoner called her from an unknown number on a phone that had been smuggled into the prison. She said the prisoner asked how she was doing and told her that a prison guard had given him her phone number. The guard told the investigators about the psychological crisis she was experiencing as a result of the rapes.

Investigators will now have to prove the guard’s testimony without evidence from cameras in the prison, and the length of time that has passed is expected to make it difficult for them to find corroborating evidence. Among other things, the prison guard’s medical documents are being looked at.

The prisoner’s version that he gave of his own volition may also make the investigation more difficult, as well as the fact that the prison guard did not report the alleged assaults soon after they happened. The police are expected to summon other prison officers to discover whether the guard had in fact been stationed in the wing at the prisoner’s request, and whether they were aware of the acts she described.

Since the reopening of the investigation against the prisoner, police have received two more complaints from female prison guards. The two women said they were posted to the prison security wing at the request of the prisoner and that he committed indecent acts against them. These complaints are expected to be included in another indictment against the prisoner, if the prosecution decides to try him. According to some officials, the evidence collected supports their version of events.

The final decision about the indictment is up to State Prosecutor Amit Aisman, who is personally overseeing the case. Later, police are expected to hold a confrontation between the guards and the prisoner, who has been held in isolation since 2018.

Keren Barak, the attorney representing the guards, expressed satisfaction with the ruling to lift the gag order. However, she said, “It is difficult for the guards and for me to understand why the name of the terrorist, who in any case is mentioned everywhere in connection with the rape of the soldier [the guard], is banned from publication. This is a terrorist with blood on his hands and no publicity can harm his good name, and so he is not entitled to any protection. This is an unfortunate decision and I hope that in the coming days his name will be released and known to all.”

The Israel Prison Service responded: “These are serious allegations of an event that took place some years ago. We will wait for the outcome of the police investigation, and we will act according to the findings with zero tolerance, according to the policy of the organization.”

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