The police cheerfully declared this weekend that it raided a brothel in the Kratyot area in northern Israel, where sexual services were provided to men. On Sunday night, however, loopholes were found in this version of the story.
The Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexuals and Trans-genders in Israel ("The Aguda") reacted with anger to the raid, in which 11 men were arrested on suspicion that they had worked in prostitution.
The association's chairman, Mike Hammel, said that "the sauna is a meeting place for men looking to meet men." Hammel received many complaints from the sauna's visitors accusing him of slander.
The sauna is viewed as a recreational place for gays around the world. In Tel-Aviv, for instance, there are three running saunas. A. established the sauna in Haifa a few months ago, investing large sums of money, and has run it ever since. This is the only place in the north serving as a meeting place for the gay community.
"Saying that this place provides prostitution services, is simply ignorance and stupidity", he said to Ynet. "Only in Haifa can they come to a place for gays, remove people as if they were a herd of animals, and simply place them under investigation for prostitution."
He washed himself clean of police accusations saying that the place provides sexual services, and was enraged by the way his visitors were treated. "There is no prostitution, no minors, no drugs", he declared.
'The police can't be that stupid'
M., one person arrested at the sauna, turned to the offices of the association and asked for their assistance in contending with the authorities.
"I was with someone in one of the stalls – without payment – and suddenly the police appeared with flashlights and started shining lights on us. They did not give us a chance to shower, demanding we show them our identification card, and did not let us know what we are being charged with."
According to him, the police arrested the sauna visitors for prostitution, because of the NIS 50 ($14.4) entrance fee. "Defining the place as a brothel is a trend. It is for the sake of plotting, because with all of my lack of respect for the police, they are not that stupid," said Hammel.
According to him, he asked to meet with the chief of the police station and relayed that he can present his claim in front of him on Tuesday. A. does not intend on giving up the fight: "I will not be deterred by some bullies".
Police: It is definitely a brothelPolice commander Jamal Hakrush still thinks that he was not mistaken, and says that the information the police has contradicts the association's claims: "According to the evidence we gathered at the scene, there were sexual activities in exchange for money. If so, this is not an infringement of privacy, but rather a brothel, like any other brothel".
He added that all the suspects under investigation were released. "The State Prosecutor's Office and the court will decide if the evidence is sufficient enough to convict," said Hakrush.
Over the past few months, the police have been working hard to fight against brothels, especially in residential areas. So far, 60 brothels have been shut down, but in most cases the same place is closed more than once and every time different "facts" and owners are found.
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report