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Consultations on the Shin Bet Affair

Senior government ministers and the Attorney General held urgent consultations Monday over how to respond to two Supreme Court orders on the Shin Bet affair while at the same time avoiding a possibly fatal confrontation between the Labor and Likud partners in the unity coalition.

The court last Wednesday gave the government two weeks to show cause why a full-scale investigation should not be launched into allegations that the former chief of Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, was directly involved in the unexplained deaths of two Arab bus hijackers in custody of security agents in April, 1984 and engaged in elaborate cover-up at two subsequent inquiries.

The court also gave the government a week to provide detailed information about the a priori pardons granted by President Chaim Herzog to Shalom and three of his top aides, none of whom have been formally charged with any offenses. The pardons were challenged before the high court by the Citizens Rights Movement (CRM), an opposition party in the Knesset, and several private groups of practicing attorneys and professors of law.

GOVERNMENT RELUCTANT TO ORDER PROBE

The government, from the outset, has been reluctant to order a probe of Shin Bet on grounds that any inquiry into the activities of the country’s top secret internal security agency would compromise State security. Premier Shimon Peres and most Labor Party ministers are prepared for some sort of limited probe.

Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and all other Likud ministers adamantly oppose an inquiry. Peres, for the second time in two weeks, avoided bringing the matter to a vote at the Cabinet’s regular Sunday meeting.

Instead, Peres and Shamir each met separately with Attorney General Yosef Harish and with other ministers and private attorneys consulted by the government.

Harish reportedly advised the ministers that they ought now to consider creating a commission of inquiry rather than face the prospect of being forced to by the court or, worse from the government’s standpoint, have the court order a resumption of the police investigation asked for a month ago by former Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir.

PREPARING DATA AND INFORMATION

Harish, who replaced Zamir last month, is understood to be preparing data and explanations required by the Supreme Court but awaits the Cabinet’s decision on how to proceed. While the high court has made no substantive rulings in the case to date, its show cause orders to the government seemed to signify its readiness to intervene in favor of some form of judicial inquiry and possibly to overturn the Presidential pardons.

A new petition was submitted to the court Sunday by attorney Felicia Langer on behalf of the families of the two bus hijackers captured alive but killed before they were transferred to jail. The families, residents of Gaza, are demanding a full scale inquiry. They contend that the youths, Majdi Abu-Jumaa, 17, and his cousin, Subhi Abu-Jumaa, 18, were not hijackers but innocent passengers in the bus.

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