Figures: Tair Rada, 13 years old, was brutally murdered in 2006 in a bathroom stall of her high school in a Golan Heights town, now compared to Twin Peaks... Ukrainian Roman Zadorov was twice convicted and has been imprisoned for almost 10 years in this case, where senior Israeli criminal law professors wrote "conduct of the prosecution is scary" and "conviction with no real evidence".
Please sign the online petition, calling upon Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to use his authority for pardon or clemency, to end the travesty of justice in Roman Zadorov's case.
OccupyTLV, December 12 - In December 2006, 13 year old high school student Tair Rada decided to skip the second hour of drama class. She stayed for a while with friends out in the school yard, then went into the high school building to drink water. She never returned. Later that evening, when she failed to return home, her parents called the police. Tair was found murdered in the girls' bathroom -- her throat slit twice and numerous additional cuts on her body.
Police initially detained a homeless person, then a gardener as the suspects, but both were soon released. In a dramatic press conference two weeks after the murder date, the Israel Police announced that 29 year old Ukrainian Roman Zadorov was held as the most likely suspect and that he confessed to a police informer in jail that he had murdered Tair. A day later, his attorney said that Roman recanted any confession. Roman had never signed any confession either. Moreover, his attorney stated that whatever Roman had said to police was the outcome of intense pressure and undue manipulations during the 8 day investigation.
The motive for the murder, as stated by police, was insults that Tair hurled at Roman after he denied her request for a cigarette. However, Tair's family said that Tair never smoked, and that she couldn't stand cigarette smoke either... Her friends said that rude talk and insults, as described by police, were unlikely conduct for Tair. That claimed motive was later entirely dropped...
Roman is a non-Jewish Ukrainian citizen, who arrived in Israel in 2002 as a tourist and then extended his stay. Eventually, he married Olga, an Israeli citizen, in 2005. Two months prior to the murder their first son was born. Roman worked in construction and did not speak Hebrew well. Most of the investigation was conducted in Hebrew, which he didn't understand well. His conversations with the police informer in jail were conducted in Russian. Later, claims were made that Hebrew translations of the transcripts of the conversations with the police informer were adulterated...
Figures: Parts of the documentary, "Framing the Innocent", which was produced by investigators Haim Sadovsky and Doron Beldinger, was broadcast by Channel 2 TV. It raised serious concerns of deliberate perversion of the investigation by the Israel Police and fraud in court by the State Prosecution. The broadcast raised public awareness of the gross perversion of justice in this case. In an unprecedented phenomenon, tens of thousands of Israelis joined online support groups. "Me too with Roman Zadorov" sign in Tel-Aviv.
"Conviction with no real evidence"
Figures:The State Prosecution claimed that the murderer locked the bathroom stall from the inside, climbed on Tair's body, grabbed hold of the stall's panels and jumped to the next stall and from there left the place. Smaller, youth-size shoe imprints were discovered in the crime scene, which obviously were not Roman Zadorov's. The State Prosecution and an Israel Police expert claimed that blood stains on the Tair's pants and shoes were Zadorov's shoe imprints. In court, they presented grossly modified images of the evidence to support such claims. Former FBI agent and shoe print expert William Bodziak doubted that any the relevant blood stains could be considered Roman Zadorov's shoe imprints, or that they could be undoubtedly considered shoe imprints at all. UK foot imprint expert Guy Cooper opined that they were not Roman Zadorov's shoe imprints. Judgment of the Nazareth District Court considered the shoe imprints the main, or only physical evidence tying Roman Zadorov to the murder.
Later, in 2010, senior criminal law professor Boaz Sangero wrote: "Conviction with no real evidence". Sangero also explicitly stated that Roman Zadorov's guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Sangero noted that the conviction was primarily based on a dubious confession and on dubious shoe imprints, that there was no scientific evidence tying the suspect to the scene crime and no motive was offered, that the suspect denied his guilt throughout most of the investigation and during the years of litigation, and that when he purportedly confessed, he led the investigators to no new evidence at all.
On the contrary, Roman Zadorov's purported confession included obvious false evidence...
Sangero also attacked the heavy reliance of the Israeli courts on confessions in general. Such confessions are often extracted through undue conduct by law enforcement, but the Israeli courts still hold them admissible.
The murder reconstruction video later became a key part of the evidence in the trial. However, as became evident, the video was heavily directed and edited. Roman was clueless, he couldn't even identify the bathroom stall, where the murder had been committed. Police effectively directed him throughout the reconstruction...
Figures: Long dark hairs were discovered in Tair's hand, who apparently struggled with the murderers. The hairs were obviously not Roman's. The Israel Police never tried to match them to any of the other suspects, and the State Prosecution never explained their origin. DNA samples and other biological specimen, likewise, did not match Roman, but no attempt was made to match them with other suspects. The Israel Police and the State Prosecution claimed that the murder was committed using a smooth edged knife, which was never retrieved, and Roman purportedly confessed it. Senior forensic medical experts testified that the murder was committed using a serrated knife.
Shoe imprints, found in the blood in the bathroom stall, matched youth-size shoes, much smaller than Roman could possibly wear. The Israel Police did not attribute them to anybody.
Israel Police expert and the State Prosecution claimed in court that blood stains on Tair's pants and shoes were Roman's shoe imprints. However, in court they presented grossly modified images of the evidence to support such claims. UK shoe imprint expert Dr Guy Cooper testified in 2009 that these stains could not be considered Roman's shoe imprints. Former FBI shoe imprint expert William Bodziak, who also testified in the OJ Simpson trial, doubted in his 2013 testimony that these stains could be Roman's shoe imprints, or that they could be undoubtedly considered shoe imprints at all. Another opinion of the same Israel Police shoe imprint expert has been recently rejected by the courts in another false murder conviction case.
Long dark hairs, evidently not Roman's, were discovered in Tair's hand. Obviously, they were not Roman's hair. The State Prosecution never explained their origin, and the Israel Police never tried to match them to any other suspect.
Fingerprints (65!) were discovered in the murder scene. They were neither Tair's nor Roman's. The Israel Police never explained their origin and never attempted to match them with any other suspect. Theoretically, the murderer could have worn gloves, but the State Prosecution claimed that the murder was impulsive, not premeditated...
Initially, the Israel Police told the press that DNA samples from the crime scene were matched with Roman's. That claim was later abandoned. But the Israel Police never tried to match the DNA samples to any other suspect. A total of 150 biological samples from the crime scene were tested, but none matched Roman Zadorov...
The murder tool, according to the purported confession and reconstruction was a Japanese, smooth-edged cardboard knife. However, it was never retrieved. In his purported confession, Roman said that he had placed it under the tiles that he had been laying that day. But the tiles were removed, and the knife was never found. Moreover, two senior forensic medical experts later testified that the murder was committed using a serrated knife, not a smooth-edged Japanese cardboard knife...
According to forensic medical expert opinion, the murder was committed by a left-handed person, while Roman is right-handed...
The murder was timed to approximately 1:30 pm. Roman was never sighted around that time in the school building. On the contrary, around that time he was on the phone with his employer. Roman ran out of cement for laying the tiles and asked for additional supply. His employer asked him to wait for him near the high school gate...
Half an hour later, Roman was sighted in the school cafeteria, and according to testimony appeared calm as usual. He continued his work as usual till 5:30pm.
None of the blood stained clothes or shoes, which could be expected, given the gruesome murder scene, were ever discovered...
Students in Tair's high school
Tair had been on bad terms with some girls in the high school for several years prior to the murder. And according to testimonies by teachers, students in the high school prepared posters on the day following the murder, which said, "Tair, your day has come!"
High school students were the obvious suspects. Some students were indeed investigated by the Israel Police early on, but the investigators focused almost from day one on others, who were not students, and after a few days -- only on Roman Zadorov.
A student in the high school later testified that she saw under the bathroom stall, where the murder was committed, Tair's Puma shoes, youth-size Allstar shoes and blood... Another student's testimony implied that she knew more, "but repressed it"... Yet another student stated that "at our age, we don't tell on others"...
The fact that a long list of students went through the bathroom around the murder time, while Tair apparently struggled with the murderers, and some of them even noticed highly suspicious circumstances, but never said a word to anyone, begs for an explanation. Moreover, in police investigation and in court testimonies later on, it turned out that word was spread immediately among the high school students that anybody who said anything about the murder would suffer consequences...
The high school principal testified about suspicious or bizarre conduct of students in the school...
Even the Nazareth District Court reprimanded the Israel Police during the trial for failing to follow up on investigation of a student, who stated that there were students who knew, who the murderers were...
Tair's mother stated on various occasions that she didn't believe that Roman was the murderer, and that the true murderers were "from Tair's world". At other times, she alluded more directly that the murderers were high school students.
Online social network groups, who support Roman's cause, published the names of the students, who were most closely involved in the affair, and close family relations of some of them with both high and low ranking Israel Police personnel. Israel Police took action to remove such references from the social networks. Claims were made that the exposure, both online and in media, amounted to persecution of the girls. In TV interviews, also posted online, the girls' statements came across as lacking in credibility...
Dubious judicial process
Figure: Former Judge Yitzhak Cohen, Assistant Presiding Judge (since 2006), later Presiding Judge (since 2013) of the Nazareth District Court made the majority of decisions in the trial court in Roman Zadorov's case. In 2014 he was forced to resign after the Israel Police recommended his prosecution for sex crimes, including alleged sex crimes against an attorney in chambers and sex crimes against minors. It does not appear that the State Prosecution intends to follow through on the Israel Police recommendation in this case... The authentic 2010 Roman Zadorov conviction and sentencing records are missing from the Nazareth District Court's electronic case management system, and are yet to be discovered... Top Israeli defense attorney Avigdor Feldman, who joined the case pro bono in 2014, wrote in December 2015 that "remnants of the judgment records were scattered in the wind across the Jezreel Valley" (which Nazareth overlooks)...
Trial commenced in January 2007 with the filing of the indictment in the Nazareth District Court, followed by the September 2010 initial conviction, October 2010 filing of Roman's appeal in the Israeli Supreme Court, March 2013 remand to the Nazareth District Court for additional review of the evidence, and February 2014 supplementary judgment - again convicting Roman.
The October 2010 Appeal is still pending before the Israeli Supreme Court.
No signed confession was filed with the indictment. Roman refused to sign the confessions, dictated by police. However, police officers testified that he confessed in investigation that he had committed the murder.
No motive at all for the murder was provided in the indictment.
The 456 page, September 2010 conviction by a three-judge panel headed by Yitzhak Cohen - then Presiding Judge of the Nazareth District Court -- was read out in a dramatic open court hearing. It stated that there was no doubt that Roman was the murderer, and that his testimony was full of lies and manipulations... Roman was further convicted on obstruction police investigation...
However, to this date neither the authentic September 2010 conviction nor the authentic September 2010 sentencing record have been discovered. The conviction record is entirely missing from the Nazareth Court's electronic case management system, and the sentencing record, which appears in the system, is missing the signature of Judge Haim Galpaz... Top defense lawyer Avigdor Feldman, who joined the case pro bono in 2014, late in the appeal process, and who is known for his dark humor, wrote in December 2015, that "remnants of the judgment records were scattered in the wind across the Jezreel Valley" (which Nazareth overlooks).
Already in January 2014, senior criminal law professor Boaz Sangero wrote: "When will Roman Zadorov be acquitted?"
In unusual candor and lack of deference to the courts, Prof Sangero further stated in interviews following the February 2014 repeat conviction, that he couldn't explain the conviction and thought that it was wrong.
Presiding Judge Yitzhak Cohen of the Nazareth District Court, who twice convicted Zadorov, resigned later in 2014, after police recommended his prosecution for sex crimes in chambers against an attorney and sex crimes against minors... However, it appears that the State Prosecution has no intention of moving forward in filing an indictment against former Judge Yitzhak Cohen...
Figures: Roman Zadorov's appeal in the Israeli Supreme Court was filed in October 2010, and continues to this date. At present, it is held by a panel of three Justices -- Yoram Danziger, Yitzhak Amit, and Tzi Zylbertal (top). Inspection of the Supreme Court paper court file (original records) showed that all engaged in the issuance and publication of unsigned decisions in this case. The plethora of unsigned decision records in this Supreme Court file also include decisions by former Presiding Justice Asher Grunis (appointing Justice Danziger, who heads the panel) and by current Presiding Justice Miriam Naor (denying request for the appointment of a new panel) (bottom). Review of numerous paper files of the Israeli Supreme Court in recent years has never uncovered another court file with such abundance of invalid judicial records.
Inspection of the Supreme Court file in 2015 uncovered that the Notice of Appeal was filed in October 2010 with invalid conviction and sentencing records, in disregard of explicit provisions of the Israeli law.
Inspection of the Supreme Court file further showed that the absolute majority of the Justices' decision records in this case were invalid on their faces -- they had never been signed. Review of numerous paper files of the Israeli Supreme Court in recent years has never uncovered another court file of with similar abundance of unsigned judicial records.
"Conduct of the prosecution is scary"
Figures: Forensic medical expert Dr Maya Forman testified in the trial court for the defense, stating that the murder was committed using a serrated knife. With it, she undermined the case of the prosecution, where the use of a Japanese smooth edged knife were claimed. Dr Chen Kugel never testified in the trial court, but the prosecution misled the court to believe that he supported the prosecution's position regarding the knife (top). When he later filed an affidavit stating the opposite in a labor dispute (where Dr Forman claimed retaliation by the State Prosecution), the State Prosecution first tried to gag him, and later - to heavily edit his affidavit. Eventually, his affidavit was also filed as part of Roman's appeal in the Supreme Court. Ombudswoman of the Prosecution, retired Judge Hila Gerstel, later issued a scathing report, effectively finding that the State Prosecution engaged in tampering with witnesses and perverting/obstruction of justice. Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan objected to her report, claiming that Gerstel overstepped her authority (bottom). Based on Gerstel's report, criminal complaints were filed in December 2015 by the Israeli Governance and Democracy Movement (NGO) against senior State Prosecution and Ministry of Justice officers...
Regarding this case, senior criminal law professor Mota Kremnitzer wrote in October 2014: "Conduct of the prosecution is scary... the State Prosecution is not seeking the truth... the justice system is mostly busy protecting itself...". His comments were published in the wake of the Tel-Aviv Labor Court judgment in the lawsuit of senior forensic medical expert Dr Maya Forman against the State of Israel, Ministry of Health and others. Her case became an entirely separate scandal, which was described by Israeli media as persecution, settlement of accounts, and a retaliation campaign by Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan against Dr Forman for her professional, honest, expert testimony in the Zadorov affair.
Dr Forman testified for Roman in the Nazareth District Court, and her expert testimony, that the murder was committed using a serrated knife, not a smooth-edged Japanese knife, as claimed by the State Prosecution, and as purportedly confessed by Roman, dealt a major blow to the State Prosecution case. Review of the evidence regarding the knife was a central issue in the March 2013 remand to the Nazareth District Court .
However, in its February 2014 supplementary judgment the Nazareth District Court not only rejected Dr Forman's expert testimony, but also heavily criticized her professional conduct. In the aftermath, Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who claimed that he was backed by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, tried to impose professional restrictions on Dr Forman and to prohibit her from further appearaces in court as an expert witness -- effectively crippling her professional employment.
The labor dispute became a farce in its own sake, with the Israeli Medical Association joining as a friend of the court, strongly supporting Dr Forman. The Israeli Ministry of Health was named Defendant in the labor dispute. But Minster of Health Yael German wrote to the Attorney General that his conduct "lacks legal foundation and carries overarching and dangerous implications... blatant violation of Human Rights, the fundamentals of law and justice..."
The farce in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court climaxed, when the State Prosecution tried to solicit an affidavit in support of its position from another senior forensic medical expert in the State Forensic Institute, Dr Chen Kugel. Dr Kugel provided the State Prosecution a curveball affidavit, which for the first time disclosed that he also supported Dr Forman's professional opinion that the murder was committed using a serrated knife... Furthermore, Dr Kugel's affidavit strongly objected to any professional restrictions on an expert, who provided an honest opinion in court, as a dangerous precedent.
The State Prosecution first tried to gag Dr Kugel and then tried to heavily edit his affidavit. Eventually, Dr Kugel's affidavit was filed, unmodified, both in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court and in Roman's appeal in the Supreme Court. Furthermore, both the original affidavit and the edited affidavit, proposed by the State Prosecution, were published, causing a major uproar...
Following the Dr Forman lawsuit, which became a self-standing scandal, senior law professor and former dean of the Hebrew University Law School Yoav Dotan wrote: "Dr Forman and Mr Nitzan". In his opinion article, Prof Dotan emphasized the wider implications of the entire affair, which undermined due process. Prof Dotan also criticized the extreme concentration of power by the State Prosecution and its lack of accountability. The scandal furthered ongoing calls for a major reform in the offices of Attorney General and Chief State Prosecutor.
The next act in this farce started In December 2015. Ombudswoman of the Prosecution, retired Judge Hila Gerstel, issued a scathing report, effectively finding that the State Prosecution engaged in tampering with witnesses and perverting/obstruction of justice. Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan objected to Gerstel's report, claiming that Gerstel overstepped her authority.
Based on Gerstel's report, criminal complaints were filed in December 2015 by the Israeli Governance and Democracy Movement (NGO) against senior State Prosecution and Ministry of Justice officers, alleging tampering with a witnesses and attempt to pervert and obstruct justice.
The case also raised again the issue of lack of integrity in the State Forensic Medical Institute before Dr Forman and Dr Kugel joined it. Prof Sangero wrote: "For decades the Israel Police and the State Prosecution dominated the Institute. Monopoly of police and the prosecution over scientific evidence has been established, and the evidence has been used almost exclusively to support convictions."
Parents, public, and media disbelief
The victim's parents, whose representative, a private investigator and former police officer, was permitted to inspect the complete evidence in this case, do not believe that Roman is the murderer. Already in early 2007 the parents filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court, asking for re-opening of the murder investigation, and claiming that conduct of the Israel Police was "extremely unreasonable" in this case. The petition was summarily denied.
In 2010, Tair's mother told media: "As far as I'm concerned, anything to do with the court, the prosecution and the police is pure delinquency. They abandoned my daughter."
In 2011, investigators Haim Sadovsky and Doron Beldinger filed a petition with the Supreme Court, also asking that the Supreme Court mandate re-opening of the police investigation in this case. Their petition was also denied.
In December 2014, a group of activists, who closely followed the case, filed with the Attorney General criminal complaints against the Israel Police investigation team for obstruction of the investigation and fabrication of evidence, and separately against the State Prosecution team - for fraud in the court. The Attorney General has never adequately reviewed the complaints.
Unprecedented public support for Roman's cause in Israel is expressed in the tens of thousands of citizens, who are registered in online support groups, routinely follow the case, published and discussed the evidence and conduct of the justice system, and call true investigation of Tair's murder.
The Nazareth District Court 2014 supplementary judgment was also unusual in its criticism of media coverage in this case. There is no doubt that media coverage in this case was central in exposing the ludicrous conduct of the Israeli Police, the State Prosecution, and the courts themselves. Ongoing TV, radio, and print coverage of the case are unprecedented, both in scope and in the manner in which they openly challenge of the courts.
In short, the case led to a major crisis in public trust of the courts and the judicial process.
The Zadorov Affair today, like the Beilis Affair a century ago calls for international action
Figure: In 1911, Mendel Beilis was charged in the murder of a youth in Kiev, Ukraine, in what is considered the last blood libel in Europe. Beilis was released in 1913 following international pressure, led by Russian and European intelligentsia.
One cannot escape the similarity between the case of Roman Zadorov, a non-Jewish, Ukrainian citizen in Israel, and the case of Mendel Beilis, a Jew in the Ukraine a hundred years ago. Like Roman Zadorov, Mendel Beilis was falsely charged in the murder of a youth. The case of Beilis was the subject of Bernard Malamud's book The Fixer (1966), documentaries and various other works. Beilis was acquitted and released in 1913 following pressure, mounted by the international community, led by prominent figures of the Russian and the European intelligentsia.
Both cases reflect not only the plight of the abused individuals, but also the deeply entrenched, vast corruption of the justice system.
It is hoped that international pressure would be mounted on the Israeli justice system to end the travesty in the case of Roman Zadorov. Online petition was launched, please sign.
Online Avaaz Petition:
Please sign the online petition, calling upon Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to use his authority for pardon or clemency, to end the travesty of justice in Roman Zadorov's case.
Numerous references in English and Hebrew are provided online: https://www.scribd.com/doc/251654575/