Owner of Car Involved in Fatal T.A. Hit-and-run to Be Released From Police Custody

Victor Lavi, 22, was not driving at time of crash last week, but was detained for allegedly obstructing justice.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Wednesday decided to release from custody the owner of the car involved in a hit-and-run accident in Tel Aviv last week that killed Meital Aharonson, 27.

Victor Lavi was not in his Land Cruiser SUV at the time of the crash, but was detained by authorities for allegedly obstructing justice in the case. The court has postponed Lavi's release ? set to last five days ? until Thursday, to allow the police time to appeal the decision.

Lavi, 22, was allegedly forced out of his jeep before the accident and was not in the vehicle when it occurred. He has a minor criminal record.

Police suspect that either Shai Simon, 27, or Shalom Yemini, 31, were driving at the time of the crash. Yemini had turned himself into police several hours after his photo was released to the public, but told Channel Two news that he been drinking heavily the night of the accident and could not recall the details.

The court on Monday extended Yemini's remand by 10 days, under suspicion that he had been behind the wheel during the accident. Yemini's lawyer, however, has submitted witness reports claiming that it was actually Shimoni who was driving.

Even before the arrest and questioning of Yemini, who previously served five years in prison for manslaughter, police surmised that Simon was driving the vehicle when the accident occurred.

He was arrested at his Ramat Gan home over the weekend. But at Yemini's remand hearing Monday the police representative said he had not been ruled out as the driver.

Investigators now believe Simon and Yemini switched places when fleeing the police at the Tel Aviv Port, making it easier for the police to accuse both of murder.

Yemini's attorney, Eli Cohen, said his client was not driving the vehicle when the victims were hit. This morning the police will request another extension of Lavi's remand.

National Police Commissioner David Cohen defended the police decision to stop the SUV to check the driver's alcohol levels, adding that the police intend to take measures to end drunken driving.