TEL AVIV (Apr. 16)
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, appears to be implicated in a new scandal involving the possible fabrication of evidence that sent an Israel Defense Force officer to prison for treason six years ago.
Tight censorship spawned rumor and speculation in the media until this week when MK Mordechai Virshubsky of the Shinui Party appealed to the Defense Minister and Minister of Justice to “clear the air.” As a result, the cover of secrecy was lifted partially but the information which emerged in the media Thursday was vague and had the effect only of increasing speculation.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir, in his first public comment on the affair, told Israel Radio Thursday that the political echelons were in no way involved or implicated. He said those persons alleged to be connected should be investigated by the courts. “There is no intention to cover anything up,” he said.
INVOLVED PERSONS IDENTIFIED
The IDF officer convicted of treason, espionage and passing military information to the enemy was identified publicly for the first time. He is former Lt. Azzat Nafsu from the Circassian villae of Karf Kamma who was sentenced in 1980 to 18 years in prison and reduced in rank to private.
Also mentioned in the case was Yossi Ginnosar, a former senior Shin Bet operative, one of three who received a Presidential pardon last year in connection with the murder of two captured Arab bus hijackers by Shin Bet agents in 1984. None of the three was ever formally charged or tried, and, according to legal experts, the pardon was an acknowledgement of guilt in the killings and subsequent attempted cover-up.
The connection between Ginnosar and Nafsu is not known. Nafsu, whose case was kept secret until now, maintains his innocence and contends he was convicted by a military court on the basis of manufactured evidence. Last year, a military court of appeals upheld his conviction. But six months ago, the Knesset amended the law to allow soldiers to carry their appeals beyond the military justice system. Nafsu has since appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Shin Bet has been implicated on the basis of published reports that Ginnosar told investigators in the bus hijackers’ case that Shin Bet routinely fabricated evidence to protect itself. He was quoted as saying this was “standard procedure.” Apparently it was Shin Bet evidence which helped convict Nafsu.
Shin Bet also is reported to have proposed that Nafsu be granted a Presidential pardon and released from prison in order to forestall his appeal to the Supreme Court. Justice Minister Avraham Sharir said Thursday that the appeal should be pressed with full confidence in the legal system and its ability to see that justice is done. The IDF also wants Nafsu’s appeal to be heard, though in closed session. The Circassians are a Moslem minority from the Caucusus who fled the Czarist regime in the late 19th century to settle in territories of the Ottoman empire, including Palestine. Only 1,200 of them live in Israel. They are full citizens, fiercely patriotic and, apart from the Druze who are indigenous to the region, are the only Moslems permitted to serve in the IDF.