TEL AVIV — Israel’s state prosecution said Monday that the suspect in the 2009 deadly attack on a gay youth center in Tel Aviv has confessed that the shooting was motivated by anti-gay bias.
The statement is a reversal by Israeli police, who said last month that the killing of two people at the center was no longer being treated as a hate crime.
Hagai Felician, 23, is accused of the deadly shooting at Bar-Noar, killing the club’s instructor Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Turbishi, a 16-year-old lesbian teen. Ten others were injured in the attack.
The incident had remained unsolved for more than three years until an accomplice of Felician became a state informant, leading to Felician’s arrest last month, and an indictment on Monday for murder and attempted murder.
While in detention, Felician allegedly confessed his actions to an undercover police officer planted in his jail cell, and said that he did it because of his conviction that the “bible forbids same-sex acts”, which according the police explained why hate motivated him to shot innocent LGBT people.
The informant, along with a family member of Felican, are also said to be implicated in the act.
The state informant provided a recording of Felician saying, “Listen carefully, four years have passed, it remained quiet until now, and you understand that it will remain so. No need to open this. Nobody can know we did it; we did a clean job in Bar-Noar.”
He also sent the state informant text messages urging him to remain silent.
According to the indictment, Felician was outraged after he learned that a 15 year-old relative was alleged sexually assaulted by Shaul Ganon, the founder of the Bar Noar club.
Investigators said Felician entered Bar Noar seeking to kill Ganon, but “lost control” and went on a shooting rampage.
He also told the informant that he burnt the clothes he wore during the attack and disposed of the unlicensed gun that he used.
After investigators confronted Felician, he reportedly told them, “You have everything on me, you can give yourself a pat on the back.”
Tel Aviv district prosecution stated that Felician was “motivated by feelings of hostility and revenge,” when he entered the club on Aug. 1, 2009.
“He murdered and attempted to murder innocent young people… solely because they happened to be at the Bar Noar club,” according to a statement by state prosecutors Asaf Shavit and Ashra Gaz-Eisenstein.
Ganon, a respected activist in Israel’s LGBT community, was arrested last month under suspicion of sexual assault that allegedly occurred prior to the shooting.
Charges against Ganon have since been dropped under an agreement to testify for the prosecution.
On Monday evening, the previously unidentified youth appeared on Israeli television and said that Ganon “never touched me,” and that Felician is too “mentally weak” to commit such a crime.
Instead he blamed the state informant, and said Felician is innocent.