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Peres: Police Probe of Shin Bet Will Not Spare Probe of Ministers

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Premier Shimon Peres stressed Tuesday that a police investigation of the Shin Bet affair, rather than a judicial inquiry, is not intended to short circuit an investigation of the role the political echelon — that is Ministers — had in covering up the unexplained deaths of two Arab bus hijackers in custody of security agents in April 1984.

Speaking at a high school in the north of the country a day after the Cabinet had decided to turn the Shin Bet affair over to the police for investigation, Peres said that “the law is equal for all, and all are equal before the law … and no one is immune from police investigation …. The police does not interrogate echelons, it interrogates persons.”

Peres noted that in the past, Ministers had been investigated by the police and there had even been a case of conviction.

At an all-day Cabinet meeting Monday, Peres and his Labor colleagues had supported Attorney General Yosef Harish’s recommendation that the affairs be investigated by a judicial commission of inquiry, but a majority of Likud and Religious Ministers rejected this. Harish, therefore, has ordered the police to go ahead with their inquiry, originally launched by former Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir.

Peres said Tuesday that there had been Ministers who believed before Monday’s Cabinet meeting that the affair could be buried without any inquiry. But they had learned that this would not be possible.

MORE SHIN BET OFFICERS MAY SEEK A PARDON

Haaretz reported Tuesday, in a lead front page story, that more than 10 Shin Bet officers would apply for Presidential pardons in the wake of the Cabinet decision which had meant, in effect, allowing the police inquiry to go forward.

The head of Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, and three of his top aides were awarded Presidential pardons by President Chaim Herzog last month for their alleged roles in the cover-up that followed the illegal killing of two captured terrorists who had hijacked a bus near Gaza in April 1984.

Those Presidential pardons are presently the subject of a judicial examination by the High Court of Justice, following challenges by several groups of private attorneys and by the Citizens Rights Movement.

Had the Cabinet agreed to a judicial commission, its terms of reference (they are drawn up by the Cabinet) could conceivably have been limited so as to avoid triggering prosecutions of Shin Bet personnel. A police inquiry, on the other hand, cannot be limited in this way.

Haaretz cited legal observers to the effect that if the High Court upholds the validity of the original Presidential pardons, Herzog “will have no choice but to” award pardons to the new group of Shin Bet applicants who were involved in the killings and the cover-up.

PRESS RESTRICTIONS SOUGHT

Meanwhile, Police Minister Haim Barlev said Monday night the police would seek a blanket secrecy order from the courts, forbidding all and any reporting of the police inquiry into the Shin Bet affair.

Barlev said such an order, if obtained, could bar publication of the names of the investigators, the witnesses, the time and place of the inquiry sessions, and virtually any other relevant information.

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