JERUSALEM (Jul. 20)
Attorney General Yosef Harish advised the Supreme Court Sunday that a police investigation has begun into the Shin Bet affair and will exempt no one involved in the episode, “from the lowliest private soldier in the field to the top political level.”
The probe will focus on allegations that Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom and three of his senior aides fabricated evidence and gave perjured testimony at quasi-judicial inquiries into the unexplained deaths of two Arab bux hijackers in custody of security agents in April 1984. Shalom and his aides who have since resigned from Israel’s internal security service, were given blanket pardons by President Chaim Herzog last month.
Harish told the court that the police have not yet called anyone for questioning but are in the process of gathering information. He said they were studying the records of the two earlier inquiries where the alleged cover-ups occurred.
Harish appeared before a panel of three justices, headed by Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, to argue why the high court has no need to order the government to open on inquiry, as the matter is already under investigation.
Shamgar and his associates, Justices Miriam Ben-Porat and Aharon Barak, retired after a long morning in a packed courtroom to consider their decision. It is expected this week.
GOVERNMENT ORDERED TO SHOW CAUSE
The court ordered the government two weeks ago to show cause why an investigation of Shin Bet should not be launched. It acted in response to petitions by several groups which are also seeking to have the Presidential pardons invalidated. Harish recommended to the government at the time that it establish a judicial commission of inquiry. But his proposal was rejected by majority vote of the Cabinet a week ago.
Harish preferred a judicial commission which he felt would be better equipped than the police to protect the secrecy that surrounds Shin Bet operations. But under the circumstances he was forced to bring in the police because, as he explained to the ministers last Sunday, he could not face the court without one or another form of inquiry under way.
To have done otherwise, Harish said, would have resulted in the court ordering a probe, to the grave embarrassment of the government and himself.
Harish also argued before the court in defense of the Presidential pardons, which he maintained were entirely legal and with ample precedents. Lawyers for the challenging groups insisted that the President may pardon only offenders. Since Shalom and his aides were never formally charged, tried or convicted of any offense, they have no status before the law as offenders, the lawyers contended.