Probe Begun Which Can Lead to Criminal Charges Against Avnery

Acting Attorney General Meir Gabbai has initiated a police investigation which could lead to criminal charges being brought against Uri Avnery, the Israeli journalist and former leader of the Sheli faction, who interviewed Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat in Beirut 10 days ago. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir is abroad.

Gabbai decided after consultations with State Attorney Yona Blatman to turn over the Avnery file to the police. Avnery, editor and publisher of the weekly Haolam Haze, and two staff journalists who accompanied him to Beirut, could be tried for having contact with the enemy.

Avnery’s lawyer, Amnon Zichroni, charged that the decision to launch a police investigation was a politically motivated attempt to discredit the “peace camp” in Israel.

According to Avnery, his meeting with Arafat was conducted in his capacity as a journalist. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry has angrily denied Zichroni’s allegation, published in the Jerusalem Post yesterday, that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had once encouraged Avnery to contact PLO leaders and even wanted to meet with Arafat himself. The Ministry called the story “utterly unfounded.”

But Avnery insisted today that it was correct. He said he was approached by Sharon in 1976 when the Yom Kippur War hero was setting up on independent political faction known as Shlom Zion. According to Avnery, Sharon wanted him to set up a meeting with Arafat at which Sharon would propose that the PLO overthrow King Hussein of Jordan and establish that country as a Palestinian state. Arafat rejected the proposed meeting, Avnery said.

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