Topaz Confesses to Ordering 'Revenge' Assaults

Television personality Dudu Topaz confessed yesterday to allegations of his involvement in recent attacks against leading figures in the television and entertainment industries.

After three days of questioning and two days at the Abu Kabir detention facility in Tel Aviv, Topaz told investigators of his involvement in attacks against Reshet television executive Shira Margalit two weeks ago, against Keshet television CEO Avi Nir last November and against entertainment agent Boaz Ben-Zion about six months ago. He also implicated his neighbor, Daniel Zenko, and two other men. The two others, Suleiman Hiadra, 33, and Ayman Zabidat, 22, allegedly carried out the attack on Margalit.

Topaz's confession came after investigators told him that he was facing hours of interrogation including a face-to-face confrontation with Zenko. Topaz was also given access to newspapers featuring detailed coverage of his case. During the course of the interrogation that followed, the police repeatedly told Topaz that they had all the eyewitness testimony they needed to indict him.

After four and a half hours of questioning, Topaz finally broke: "Enough," he said, "It's hard for me. I want to get it out of me. I asked Zenko to arrange the attacks. I don't have a rational explanation why I did it. They didn't want me on television and I decided to take revenge." He added that he was very sorry for what he had done.

At about 6 P.M. yesterday, attorneys for Topaz, Zion Amir and Guy Shemer, met with the entertainer, who told them that he had confessed to his role in the assaults. On leaving police headquarters, the lawyers refused to state what their legal strategy in the case would be. Even before the confession by Topaz, police sources said there was enough evidence for an indictment against him and against Zabidat and Hiadra, who are accused of physically committing assault. Following the confession by Topaz, the police said indictments against those in detention may come as early as next week. Charges are expected to include conspiracy to commit a crime, aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

Lawyers for Zabidat and Hiadra said the confession by Topaz alone is not sufficient to prove their clients' alleged role in the case.

Questions are also being raised as to whether director Ilan Shushan had advance knowledge of Topaz's alleged intention to arrange the assaults. Shushan is a close friend of Topaz who, over the past half year, made a documentary about Topaz for Reshet, the Channel 2 television franchisee. Filming took place during the same period in which the assaults were committed. Police sources have said that raw footage from the documentary may shed light on at least some of the details regarding Topaz's alleged involvement. Police are expected to seek to review the footage to examine statements that Topaz made for the documentary. They say the footage would have been key evidence absent Topaz's confession, and that Shushan could be investigated as an accessory in the case if he knew about alleged plans to commit assaults and failed to act to prevent them.

Reaction to the confession by Topaz ranged from total astonishment on the part of his friends and associates to a sense of relief on the part of his alleged victims. Earlier in the week when the case first surfaced, several of his friends had expressed their full confidence in Topaz's innocence. Following the confession, it was difficult to get a reaction from those who know him.

Musician Yossi Sidi, who has worked with Topaz for over 20 years, said: "I am in total shock. It sounds totally mad to me. I don't want to respond and don't know how to respond to this."

The prosecution in the case will have a range of criminal offenses to consider relating to bodily harm, if it is decided to file charges against Topaz. Based on published accounts of the case, criminal lawyer David Yiftach says possible charges include assault causing actual bodily harm, which is punishable by up to three years in prison. If, as police suspect, the case involves an assault committed by two or more people, there could be grounds for the charge of aggravated assault and a six-year prison term. The law provides up to seven years in jail for causing serious bodily harm, and up to 14 years for serious bodily harm under aggravated circumstances involving two or more assailants or if committed with a weapon.

The most serious criminal provision involving attacks is causing bodily injury with aggravated intent, for which imprisonment of up to 20 years can be imposed, but conviction involves proof of intent to cause disability, deformity or serious injury. Based upon the allegations against Topaz, conspiracy charges may also be considered. In order to avoid criminal responsibility based on a defendant's mental state, it would be necessary to show that the defendant could not distinguish between right and wrong and did not know that his acts were against the law.