Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office on Thursday added rape charges to the indictment of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl at a state-run coronavirus hotel, following a public outcry over a weaker indictment.
Yarin Sherf, 21, was accused of raping the teen at the facility for at-risk youth earlier this month when the two were quarantined together at the site, but was initially only charged with engaging in an unlawful but consensual sexual encounter.
According to the complaint, the man formed a friendship with the teen to gain access to her room and then raped, choked and beat the alleged victim for two days straight, all while supplying her with drugs and alcohol.
The amendment request came following a massive public outcry and protests over the original charges, and several deliberations with Acting State Prosecutor Amit Isman and the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office, where evidential material and legal documents were reexamined.
While having sex with a minor under the age of 14 is considered statutory rape, prosecutors were at first reluctant to press rape charges as the girl had apparently told Sherf that she was 14.
Isman approved the request for a harsher indictment, saying that despite the complexity of the case, it appeared that a rape conviction was reasonable and that given the circumstances, amending the indictment was justifiable.
"It is the duty of the prosecution to reevaluate the evidentiary situation at every stage, as was done in this case as well, when it was decided to go to court and seek to amend the indictment," said the State Prosecutor's Office in a statement.
The girl's family and her legal team praised the decision to amend the charges. The family had previously said that the decision not to indict Sherf for rape was akin to her being assaulted again.
"We welcome the professional decision of the acting state prosecutor and the State Prosecutor's Office who are handling the case and who were able to correct the indictment to accuse Yarin Sherf of the offense he committed - the rape of a 13-year-old girl," the family said.
"We appreciate the professional ability to examine the issues in depth, and bring justice for the girl, the family, and Israeli society."