Family members of Mahmoud Katusa outside Ofer prison
Family members of Mahmoud Katusa outside Ofer prisonYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Relatives of a Palestinian Authority resident indicted on aggravated rape charges celebrated the decision by prosecutors Tuesday to withdraw the indictment and release him – despite lingering suspicions.

On Tuesday, army prosecutors announced that they lacked sufficient evidence to push forward with a trial, and would withdraw the indictment filed against 46-year-old Mahmoud Katusa for the rape of a seven-year-old girl.

“This is a sad day,” said Katusa’s defense attorney, Nasahf Darwish, “but on the other hand it is also a happy day, since an innocent man is being freed.”

“We identify with the girl and her family. My client was not involved – either directly or indirectly – with the story here.”

Anwar Katusa, the suspect’s brother, celebrated the prosecution’s decision to free Mahmoud.

“Thank God. We had a rough 60 days. Yesterday I spoke with [Mahmoud] and he told me that he will be going free,” Anwar Katusa said, according to Israel Hayom. “We hope that the police will go back to searching for the one who did this, and that we never see another girl go through this kind of thing again.”

Katusa’s family said they would mark his release with a feast.

But the announcement by army prosecutors Tuesday did not clear Katusa in the case.

While acknowledging that they lacked sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, prosecutors wrote in the announcement Tuesday that investigators “believe there is evidence that the girl was sexually assaulted, and there is an evidentiary basis…pointing to Katusa’s involvement in the assault.”

A resident of the Palestinian Authority town of Deir Qaddis, near the haredi city of Modi’in Illit, Katusa has been in custody since May 1st.

Last week, army prosecutors filed an indictment against Katusa, following a lengthy investigation, during which Katusa failed a polygraph test.

Katusa, who had worked both as a maintenance man at a school in a haredi city near Modi’in, and as a construction worker in the same city, was arrested after being accused of abducting a seven-year-old girl from her school, where Katusa worked, carrying her off to a nearby house Katusa was renovating, and raping her.

The indictment said that at least two other Arab workers helped Katusa commit the rape, by holding the victim’s arms and legs.

Later, the victim identified Katusa as the perpetrator, pointing him out to a teacher.

Question arouse shortly after the indictment was filed, however, regarding the veracity of the child’s identification of Katusa as the perpetrator.

The case lacked physical evidence, due in part to the family’s decision not to immediately report the matter to police, and investigators say the victim may have been led by her mother to identify Katusa as the perpetrator.

Despite Katusa having failed a polygraph test during the initial investigation, prior to the indictment, a major discovery at the victim’s home this week changed the prosecution’s position regarding the indictment, Israeli media outlets reported Monday night.