A lawmaker from the right-wing Jewish Home party was being questioned under caution by police on Sunday as part of an ongoing inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against him.
The interrogation of MK Nissan Slomiansky at the headquarters of the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit in Lod came after Channel 2 reported on Friday that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had authorized investigators to turn the probe against him into a full-blown investigation.
The Jewish Home party declined to comment on Sunday.
Although police failed to convince the women who have alleged they were sexually harassed by Slomiansky to file a joint complaint against him to help the investigation move forward, they still believe they have enough evidence against the lawmaker to justify opening an investigation, Haaretz reported.
Claims against Slomiansky first drew media attention last December after a Jewish Home activist went public with the allegations on Facebook. Chagit Moriah-Gibor, who said she knew several of the victims, posted a public appeal for other women to step forward, saying none of them was willing to lodge official complaints. Initially, Slomiansky’s name was banned from media publication.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the Jewish Home party leader, spoke with the MK, who denied any wrongdoing, the party said in a statement at the time. Bennett also urged anyone who may have been harmed to come forward and lodge a complaint.
Over the past four months Lahav 433 has been collecting testimonies and has so far taken statements from over 20 women, Army Radio reported in April.
Most of the women making the claims are religious and maintain a strict no-contact rule with men other than their husbands. Among the testimonies are also claims of alleged indecent assault and exploitation by Slomiansky of his position of authority.
Many of the alleged acts were said to have been committed inside the Knesset, in Slomiansky’s private office or in committee rooms.
According to the Army Radio report, in December a group of religious-Zionist rabbis and representatives of an organization that deals with sex crimes in the community reviewed the allegations against Slomiansky. They subsequently summoned him to a meeting and asked him to resign from the Knesset. The lawmaker denied the allegations and refused to comply, although later he admitted that he had touched women on the elbow and said his “well-known loving nature may have been misinterpreted.”
Hebrew media reports at the time said rumors of inappropriate behavior by Slomiansky surfaced before the last election in March 2015. In the weeks before the vote, the party chiefs were informed of the allegations by women who had worked with him in the past. However, senior party officials were unable to convince any of the women to file a complaint with police.
The Jewish Home party has previously faced allegations of sexual harassment by its lawmakers. In November 2015, Yinon Magal resigned from the Knesset over sexual assault claims. In February 2016, the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office announced it has halted the probe into Magal after police said they had not found enough evidence to recommend an indictment.