A Former IDF general convicted of sexual offenses admitted wrongdoing during a sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, with judges deciding to delay a decision until next month.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris told the court, a month after his conviction following a plea bargain with military prosecutors.
Buchris also confessed in a public letter to unspecified sexual offenses and a prohibited sexual liaison in exchange for having the far more serious crimes of rape and sexual assault dropped.
Under the plea deal, Buchris was convicted of prohibited sexual relations by consent instead of three counts of rape. He will be demoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and receive a suspended sentence rather than jail time.
The judge also ordered Buchris to see a psychiatrist in order to determine if he poses a threat to society. His two accusers were required to approve the deal; one of the two insisted that Buchris take responsibility for his actions and clarify that they were not engaged in a consensual romantic relationship.
Before agreeing to the plea deal, Buchris had vehemently denied all the charges against him, including rape and sexual assault. but he agreed to take it once a provision to exclude jail time was written in.
The allegations against Buchris surfaced last March. Two female soldiers who served in his office when he was head of the Golani Brigade, from 2010 to 2012, accused him of rape and sexual assault.
Reports of the initial allegations sent shock waves through the IDF and the rest of the country, with Buchris’s previously glowing reputation suddenly called into question.
During the sentencing hearing on Tuesday morning, deputy IDF chief of staff designate Aviv Kochavi praised Buchris’s character, saying that “in his actions and general conduct he demonstrated moral behavior,” while adding that “in all of the tasks he carried out in the past he went above and beyond in fulfilling them and is considered an outstanding commander,” the Hebrew-language daily Haaretz reported.
In regards to a suitable punishment for Buchris, which the sentencing hearing is meant to determine, Kochavi suggested demotion of a rank, saying that “in light of the circumstances, demotion of a rank is a tough penalty for an officer.”
The former head of the IDF’s Central Command Avi Mizrahi also lauded Buchris’s character at the hearing, saying that “he is a very realistic person, very brave and looks out for his people and those who are in his immediate circle,” according to Haaretz.
“It was a great loss for the IDF that Ofek was forced to resign. This man, in my opinion, is a gentleman,” Mizrahi added.
Col. Sharon Zagagi Pinchas, the chief military prosecutor in the case, said in regards to deciding an appropriate sentence that “we [will] attribute considerable weight to the fact that a public announcement was made in the letter that was distributed” by Buchris, according to Haaretz.
Pinchas also praised for Buchris for admitting to wrongdoing, saying “in our eyes he illustrated truthfulness by taking responsibility” after “a very long period of sweeping denial.”
However, judge Tzvi Gurfinkel noted that “only after the plea deal did [Buchris] take responsibility,” according to Haaretz.
Sentencing for Buchris is scheduled for February 2.