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Ex-Israel police chief jailed for sexual harassment, fraud

Nissan Shaham, former police chief has been convicted of fraud and sexual harrassment [@JComm_BlogFeeds /Twitter]
Nissan Shaham (C), former police chief has been convicted of fraud and sexual harrassment [@JComm_BlogFeeds /Twitter]

Ex-Jerusalem police chief, Nissan Shaham, was today sentenced to ten months in jail on charges of fraud, breach of trust and sexual harassment of female officers under his command.

In his opening remarks Judge Shmuel Melamed said that Shaham had harmed "protected values…there was harm to the public, harm to public servants and harm to public servants' integrity".

Adding that "the defendant did not take any responsibility and no actions were taken to correct the defendant's actions – especially vis-à-vis police officers in the force."

The sentence is a surprising U-turn, after Shaham was acquitted of sexual harassment by the lower magistrate court in December 2018.

At the time, Shaham received community service, was fined approximately $2,000 and ordered to compensate two of the victims $400, and a further victim $150.

The case has been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement in Israel, after outrage from women's rights advocates over the leniency of the sentence.

READ: Israeli police arrest well-known rabbi in Jerusalem on numerous charges

Director-General of the Association of Rape Crisis Centres, Orit Soliciano, said in December 2018: "[Shaham's] sentence should have been more severe because, as a law enforcement officer, he was expected to adhere to standards of morality and law… and not as a man who exploits his power to satisfy sexual desires."

The Tel Aviv District Court reversed the acquittal in September 2019 and sent the case back to the lower magistrate court for resentencing, after police internal affairs investigators said the sentence was insufficient given the severity of Shaham's actions. The prosecution similarly appealed against the acquittal, and the leniency of the sentence.

However, Shaham's lawyers have accused judges of ignoring the magistrate's courts original findings, and said they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The defendant had previously beaten harassment charges after arguing that instances of sexual intimacy with female colleagues were consensual, or at least, ambiguous.

Despite the ten-month jail sentence, Judge Melamed stressed today that "imposing a prison sentence on the defendant can seriously harm him especially because of his rank in the police force".

This is not the first high-profile case of sexual harassment in Israel, after former President Moshe Katsav, was convicted of rape and harassment in 2010, and received a seven-year jail sentence the following year.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland was arrested in Jerusalem yesterday on several charges, included sex offences. While the head of the Israeli naval operations, Brigadier General Shai El-Baz, resigned in October over allegations of sexual harassment.

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