The Jerusalem District Court issued an unprecedented ruling this week, convicting a couple for the Shufat neighborhood of the enslavement of their Filipina maid.
Wednesday's ruling was the first time a court in Israel defined such wrongful imprisonment as enslavement.
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The court found that Ibrahim and Basma Julani held Mary Ann Paoig in their home for over 18 months and denied her the right to leave the premises or contact anyone by phone.
Paoig was forced to live in a bathroom, in which the defendants placed a bed. She was paid only $150 a month and was made to be at the couple's disposal at all hours of the day. The two also confiscated her passport and would not allow her out of their house unless one of them was accompanying her.
The indictment against the two was filed in 2010, after Paoig was able contact the Worker's Hotline in late 2009.
The case was led by Attorney Sagi Ofir of the Jerusalem District Prosecution and Attorney Rachel Gershoni, of the Human Trafficking department at the Justice Ministry.
'Conditions unfit for human residence' (Illustration: Shutterstock)
The court found that the couple used various intimidation tactics to prevent the plaintiff from leaving the apartment on her own, adding: "The conditions in which the plaintiff was kept were unfit for human residence."
The judges further found that "The defendant Basma Julani's version of the events is inconsistent and lacks credibly… From her testimony it is also clear that she fails to understand why her conduct was wrong.
"The defendants' version of the events, which goes to suggest that they treated the plaintiff as one should treat employees is exaggerated and does not coincide with the evidence.
"The combination of depriving the plaintiff of her freedom, the defendants' intimidation and threats that the police would 'get her,' and the confiscation of her passport, all support the charges before us," the court said.
Nevertheless, the judges found that Basma Julani's involvement in the acts was greater than her husband, Ibrahim.
Attorney Ariel Atari, for the defendants, said that his clients will appeal the ruling: "While we respect the verdict we disagree with its findings. This is a foreign worker who stole from her employers and only 'remembered' to file a police complaint after one was filed against her. She was paid her wages and was free to leave whenever she wanted.
"This verdict turns anyone who employs a foreign worker into a felon. We expect the Supreme Court to overturn this verdict.
Under the Israeli Penal Code, wrongful imprisonment and enslavement are punishable by up to 16 years in jail.
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