Israel's Herzog calls for investigation of alleged sex abuse of prison guards

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Israel's President Isaac Herzog delivers a speech during a tribute ceremony at the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, southern France, on March 20, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

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JERUSALEM, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Israeli President Isaac Herzog called on Tuesday for an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of female guards by prisoners at a maximum security prison with the encouragement of their superiors.

"Hearing the testimonies of the female prison wardens in recent days, I am filled with shock and pain, and I feel sick," Herzog said in a statement. "We must investigate these cases in depth, so that everyone responsible is held accountable with the fullest severity. That is our obligation."

Last week, a former soldier who served as a prison guard in the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel wrote an online post under a pseudonym accusing her superior of repeatedly "handing her over" to be raped and sexually assaulted by a Palestinian inmate a few years ago.

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On Monday, an Israel Prison Service (IPS) officer was questioned under caution over the former soldier's allegations.

Several women have since come forward with allegations that female guards were "pimped out" to be raped or sexually abused by political prisoners at the same prison, according to Israeli media reports.

In a response to a request for comment, an IPS spokesperson said the "serious allegations" refer to an incident from a few years ago.

"The information is under a gag order and we will wait for the results of the police investigation and act accordingly with zero tolerance," the spokesperson added.

The Gilboa Prison case surfaced amid a wave of sexual abuse allegations against men in Israel's security forces.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid toured Ofer military prison near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, according to a statement released by his office.

"We will investigate, we will get to the truth," Lapid said, adding that the IPS must be protected because "the life of every Israeli citizens depends on its strength and integrity."

(The story is refiled to change headline to 'calls for investigation' )

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Writing by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Nick Macfie

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