“Rubbing red pepper into the eyes of the poor devil until he confesses is a lot easier than looking for evidence in the heat of the noonday sun.”

—attributed to a Calcutta policeman early in the 20th century

Whether or not Oded Golan, the owner of the James ossuary, is a forger is unclear at this writing. What is clear, however, is that the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) strongly suspects that he is a forger and, together with the Israeli police, are “sweating” him to confess.

In typical police fashion, the pressure is increased gradually. It began with several interrogations, conducted at Golan’s home.

Then the police began searching and confiscating. They searched Golan’s office and his parents’ home in the hope of finding forged antiquities. They confiscated his papers and computers. Next they took some of his antiquities collection. To protect his more valuable pieces during the recent Iraq war, Golan carefuly packed several hundred pieces in about 40 boxes and stored them somewhere north of Tel Aviv. The police confiscated the boxes.

On one occasion they called Golan to a police station. They handcuffed and fingerprinted him, interrogated him and took a mug shot. I asked Amir Ganor, chief IAA investigator, why they handcuffed Golan. After all, he wasn’t about to flee. “To pressure him,” Ganor replied.

On another occasion, when the IAA and the police did not get what they wanted—a confession—they arrived at Golan’s apartment with six men at 8 o’clock in the evening and stayed for nearly 30 hours, into the next evening. Teams of interrogators relieved each other throughout the night and reportedly continued to interrogate the sleep-deprived suspect.

Finally, with no confession, the police arrested Golan—coming to get him after midnight, while he was sleeping. Police sometimes effect arrests in the middle of the night when they have reason to expect resistance or violence. But why, in this case, did they have to come after midnight?

Although the police arrested Golan, he was not charged with any offense. Nevertheless, a judge was persuaded to order Golan locked up for five days. After the five days, the law required the IAA and the police either to charge him or release him. If the police wanted to extend Golan’s incarceration, they would have had to go back to the judge and present facts to justify the extension. Instead, the IAA and the police decided to release him without any attempt to extend his incarceration.

Whether Golan will eventually be charged remains to be seen. The IAA says it will decide within the next few weeks, perhaps by the time this piece appears in print.