JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli man who faked his own kidnapping apologized for the incident.
Niv Asraf, 22, spoke publicly on Monday outside his Beersheba home after he was released conditionally from an Israeli prison.
“If I had seen all the chaos, believe me, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I didn’t plan for this. If I had known it would be considered a kidnapping, I never would have done it. No one told me what was happening outside. I was isolated.”
Asraf said he decided to go into hiding after receiving a phone call “from which I knew there was no turning back. I’d rather disappear than be done in.” He said he ran away due to debts that he owed to “well-known criminals.”
“I hope I’m forgiven. It’s up to every soldier who went searching for me to forgive me or not,” Asraf said. “My goal was for the police to help me, to put two and two together and check where I’d gone. I prefer to be the most hated person in Israel than for my father to mourn me.”
Asraf had told his interrogators that he owed tens of thousands of shekels in gambling debts.
He is accused of giving false evidence, breach of public order and obstruction of a police officer’s performance of duty. Police said they intend to file an indictment against Asraf this week.
The search for Asraf last week involved some 3,000 soldiers and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Israeli security forces were alerted to Asraf’s disappearance on April 2 by an accomplice, Eran Nagaukar. He said Asraf entered the Palestinian village of Beit Anun, near Hebron, to get help after they became stranded with a flat tire.
Nagaukar originally said his friend staged the kidnapping to get the attention of a former girlfriend.
Following his release from prison on Monday, Nagaukar said he wanted to help his friend, saying, “I saw the distress in his eyes. It was purely to save him. It wasn’t planned.”
Nagaukar asked for forgiveness from the Defense Ministry, the police and “anyone else we wronged.”
Three Israeli teens were kidnapped and killed last summer near the same West Bank area.