Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Case of Uzi Hakhmon

Case of Uzi Hakhmon

Tiberias, Israel

Coach of a Boys' Soccer Team.  Arrested on suspicion of raping and sexually assaulting several members of the team - all of them minors

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Table of Contents:


  1. Boys' soccer coach arrested for allegedly molesting several players (01/27/2004)
  2. Gag order lifted on identity of suspected child molester (03/15/2004)


Boys' soccer coach arrested for allegedly molesting several players
By Eli Ashkenazi
Haaretz - January 27, 2004

The Tiberias Magistrate's Court yesterday extended the remand of 28-year-old Uzi Hakhmon by six days. Hakhmon, who is the coach of a boys' soccer team in the city and works as a sports reporter on a local weekly, was arrested last week on suspicion of raping and sexually assaulting several members of the team - all of them minors.

The case came to light last week, after Tiberias police received intelligence regarding the man's activities. "We became aware of a single man who was entertaining boys and youths in his city center apartment," said Chief Superintendent Avi Algarissi, head of the Tiberias force. Detectives and youth workers launched a covert investigation, during which they heard one local resident, who told him that his 15-year-old son had been invited to Hakhmon's apartment to watch movies. In the apartment, police say the youth "was exposed to certain things," and fled shortly after arriving.

As a result of this testimony and other material that police unearthed, and given the severity of the alleged crimes, the court issued a warrant allowing police to search Hakhmon's apartment. During the search, police found much evidence that they claim proves that sex crimes were committed in the apartment. Among the items found were some 50 videotapes and photographs. After a cursory inspection of the material, police ascertain that it depicts the suspect performing sexual acts, including sodomy, on boys aged between 12 and 18.

"Watching the videos, we were exposed to shocking and vile images," said Algarissi. "The team of detectives who watched the tapes said they were disgusted by what they saw."

According to Tiberias police, the suspect is cooperating with them, and claims that the acts depicted in the videos were carried out with the consent of the boys. Hakhmon's lawyer, public defender Avraham Yarm, said that his client has not admitted the charges against him at this stage.

Algarissi called on local parents to come forward "if they have any knowledge of contact between the suspect and their children."

Parents in shock
There was shock among parents in Tiberias yesterday, with publication of the suspicions against Hakhmon. One father, a member of the municipal parents' council, said, "Nothing about him appeared suspect. Just a few days ago they traveled to Afula for a game. Hakhmon had full access to every school in the city, because he was a soccer coach."

The deputy mayor of Tiberias, Dror Lalush, who is also in charge of education in the city, said yesterday that "Hakhmon established a soccer team at his own initiative. He did it, as far as I know, without a salary and without financial support. He once asked me to allocate him a soccer pitch for training, but I turned him down because he was not a licensed coach." An acquaintance of the suspect said yesterday that Hakhmon "had two passions - soccer and journalism."

Hakhmon lives in the Ravakiya neighborhood of Tiberias, in an apartment belonging to his father, who no longer lives in the city. According to locals, he lived with his girlfriend, a single mother. "I once went to his home and saw him playing video games with a bunch of kids," said one local resident. "He said that he teaches them soccer. I can't believe he did what people say he did."

According to acquaintances, Hakhmon lives on welfare payments, despite his claims that he was being funded by local businessmen. One youngster who played in Hakhmon's team said, "He gave everything he had to the team. He used to buy us pizza after the games and make sure everyone had transport and equipment."

Despite the fact that he has established several soccer teams in the city, and often claimed to be a talent scout for professional clubs, officials from the Betar Tiberias soccer school say that Hakhmon has no formal links with them. "It seems that he coached kids who parents couldn't afford to pay for soccer school," said school director Shmulik Bergic. He never passed a coaching course; everything he did was on his own initiative."

Almost everybody who knew Hakhmon described him as "a good guy," and expressed shock at the accusation against him.

Two weeks ago, eight students filed complaints of indecent acts committed by Yoni Hovra, a 35-year-old teacher from Petah Tikva. Hovra admitted to having sexual relations with two of his students, but claimed it was consensual in both cases.

Acting on a tip-off, investigators searched Hovra's house, and found four albums containing pornographic photos of the teacher and his students.


Gag order lifted on identity of suspected child molester
By Eli Ashkenazi
Haaretz - Mary 14, 2004

The Tiberias Magistrate's Court yesterday lifted a gag order preventing publication of the name of a 42-year-old physical education teacher suspected of molesting and sodomizing several youths. Rami Buchnik, who was arrested on March 3, was remanded for an additional 15 days.

Buchnik, who lives in the Jordan Valley, was arrested after complaints that he had been molesting youths at several kibbutzim in the region. We was also charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Police believe that Buchnik, who is married and has two children, has been molesting children for the past 15 years. During a search of his home, officers found dozens of videotapes documenting the alleged assaults. Defense attorney Haim Bokobaza told the court yesterday that his client was cooperating fully with police, and had given investigators a statement. He added that the suspect claimed the acts were not committed against the youths' wishes.

The affair first came to light a month ago, with the arrest of Uzi Hakhmon, a soccer coach who was also charged with sexually molesting and sodomizing minors. A woman from the center of the country called police in Tiberias, and told them about an acquaintance of hers who had been abused while living in the same area. Police contacted the man, now in his early 20s, and they told him about his relationship, which he described as "close and sexual," with Buchnik. "At the time, I thought it was alright," he told officers, "but when I grew up O realized that the relationship was not alright, but shame prevented my from talking about it."

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