An officer holding the rank of lieutenant colonel has been sentenced to 40 days of community service after being convicted of sexually assaulting three of his female subordinates, Ynet has learned. He was also convicted of witness tampering and conduct unbecoming.
A military court ordered him to pay NIS 1,000 in restitution to each of the complainants and demoted him to the rank of major. The officer's military career will be halted but he is set to receive an army pension and IDF veterans' benefits, subject to approval of a Manpower Directorate committee.
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The officer, who was previously awarded special notation by the chief of staff, would grope and fondle three of his subordinates – two drivers and an administrative assistant – on numerous occasions, sometimes in the presence of other soldiers.
According to the verdict, in one occasion he made advances at a soldier who was crying over financial troubles, and in another he sexually assaulted a driver while both were in a moving vehicle. She managed to prevent an accident at the last minute. "She drove like a man and I could count on her," the officer said in questioning.
The complainants resisted his advances, implored him to stop and tried to refuse but the harassment continued. "He did not respect me as a woman and humiliated me," one of them said. After an investigation was launched, the officer contacted a career officer who served as a witness for the prosecution and tried to convince her "not to harm him and his kids."
He claimed that some of the acts were "innocent" and denied others. However the court ruled that he "distorted reality, tried to portray the complaints in a negative light and was evasive."
It was further stated that the officer "committed the acts systematically, over a considerable period of time and abused his position as commander."
A military police investigation was launched after one of the soldiers filed a complaint. The two others later followed suit. The court found their testimonies to be reliable and consistent and noted it was not easy for them to file the complaint seeing as the officer assisted them in various occasions.
"The IDF can't talks about extending women's service and at the same time abandon women in this manner," MK Merav Michaeli responded to the reports.
MK Michal Rozin, former chair of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, delivered a letter to IDF chief Benny Gantz, urging him to use his authority to ensure that military courts acknowledge the severity of sexual violence.
"Such a verdict, which outrageously makes things easy for a high ranking officer who sexually assaulted three young women under his command may cause great harm to the continuous battle for gender equality and sex-violence-free environment in the IDF," Rozin stated in her letter.
Rozin urged to IDF chief "to use your authority to ensure that these incidents do not take place and are not legitimized by anyone in the IDF."
The current chair of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Orit Soltziano, said that the sentence "dismissed the severity of the offenses attributed to the officer, whose ranking and power allowed him to commit the acts." Soltziano added that the court's message may deter soldiers from filing complaints against sexual abuse in the future.
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