LONDON (Jul. 10)
Two Israeli lawyers were on their way here today to defend two Israelis who were arrested by British authorities for their involvement in the obortive attempt to obduct former Nigerian Transport Minister Umaru Dikko from Britain to Nigeria.
Uri Slonim will take up the case of Dr. Arye Lev Shapiro, a 45-year-old anaesthetist, found in a wooden crate alongside Dr. Dikko, who had been drugged with pentothal. Another lawyer was due here to defend Felix Avital, found hiding with a Nigerian in another crate.
The Israeli government has strenuously denied that it was in any way connected with the affair. In Jerualem, Premier Yitzhak Shamir said today that the government was in no way involved in the kidnapping attempt. The incident was a criminal offense in which Israel was not implicated, Shamir said. This contention was upheld by British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe who told the Parliament yesterday that there was “no evidence” of any Israeli government involvement.
Nevertheless, British newspapers are not convinced that this was the case, pointing out that Israel and Nigeria retain strong trading links despite their breach in diplomatic relations in 1974. Shapiro does not fit easily into the image of an international mercenary, as he was initially described by British police. He emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel 14 years ago when already a highly skilled physician speciallizing in anaesthetics. In Israel he worked at two hospitals as an anaesthetist and a couple of years ago went to America for specialized training. On his return he become head of the new intensive care division of the Sharon Hospital, 10 miles northeast of Tel Aviv.
He and his wife Riki are senior physicians. Although Israeli doctors are not well paid by international standard, they are said by friends to have no outstanding financial problems.
A lawyer for Tunisian-born Felix Avital is quoted here as saying his client was involved in the import and export of fashion goods and had previously owned some jewelry shops. “The family has asked me to go to Britain and that’s what I am doing. On the spot I shall find out what are the charges against my client,”he said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy here has denied that a visit to London last week by David Kimche, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was linked to the Dikko affair. Kimche was here at the invitation of the Joint Israel Appeal, the Embassy said.
Kimche, a former top intelligence officer, is one of Israel’s leading authorities on relations with Black Africa.