Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris maintained his innocence as he appeared in a Tel Aviv military court on Thursday, at the start of a trial in which he is accused of committing 16 sexual offenses against two women, including three counts of rape.
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Buchris arrived at the special military court in the Israel Defense Forces General Staff headquarters accompanied by his wife, Na’ama. His attorney, Oded Savoray, told the panel of judges that Buchris “completely denies” the charges.
The sex crimes were allegedly committed against two women — a female soldier and female officer — who served under his command between 2010 and 2012.
The head of the judges’ panel, Col. Orli Markman, said the parties have agreed to arbitration. It was declared that efforts to reach a plea bargain could continue until December, when the court hearings will begin.
Twenty-eight witnesses, including the two women plaintiffs, are listed in the case file against Buchris. Judge Zvi Gurfinkel told the parties,“The arbitration process is not instead of the main proceeding, but in tandem to it.” He added that hearings on the case would begin in mid-December and be held at least twice a week.
The arbitration efforts will be overseen by retired Judge Ilan Schiff, a major general in the reserves who held several high-ranking posts in the IDF, including president of the military court of appeals. Schiff retired in 2014 after serving as president of Haifa District Court.
Buchris retired from the IDF at the end of July in wake of the indictment. He stands accused of offenses allegedly committed against two women: A., a soldier who formerly served under his command; and L., an officer who is still in the regular army. He is charged with three counts of rape, one count of sodomy and six counts of obscene acts against the soldier, and six counts of obscene acts against the officer.
The sex crimes were allegedly committed in Buchris’ office, in his military vehicle, on a military base, in his quarters and in several other locations. One of the crimes was allegedly committed after he attained the rank of brigadier general.