Shin Bet Leaders Fear Condemnation by Court Will Encourage Terrorists

The Supreme Court’s condemnation of methods used by the Shin Bet to obtain confessions has resulted in wide spread reproach for the top secret security agency which some of its operatives fear will only encourage terrorists. The court offered its criticism in a ruling Sunday which overturned the 1981 conviction of former Israel Defense Force officer Izat Nafsu, who was serving an 18-year prison sentence for espionage and treason. Nafsu was found guilty by a military tribunal on evidence provided by the Shin Bet, also known as GSS (General Security Services).

In his appeal to the high court, Nafsu, a Circassian, charged the evidence was fabricated and that his confession was extracted by illegal means. The justices bore him out and ordered his immediate release from prison.

In an interview published in Yediot Achronot Wednesday, the former head of the GSS investigations department, who is still known only by his code name “Pashosh,” was quoted as saying: “Nafsu is speaking the truth about how we treated him in the investigation . . . The investigation was conducted quickly, like any investigation dealing with terrorism . . . We lied out of necessity. However, there was no falsification of testimony, but neither was this an investigation conducted according to law.”

Pashosh stated further, according to Yediot Achronot, that the terrorists now know the GSS is in disarray, “that GSS investigators are not working. The Nafsu affair will lead to an increase in terrorism.”

He added, “Perhaps the Israeli nation thinks that a different investigation method must be found, that one mustn’t make promises or threats to the person under investigation . . .”

The newspaper Maariv, commenting on the affair, cautioned that “critics must remember that when the GSS is ordered to expose at all costs, prevent at all costs, capture the murderers immediately, there is also a price for this demand. They work in a complex and tense system . . . The political and judicial echelons have refrained from sullying their hands with marginal matters such as obtaining confessions from a tough defendant, of the turning in of an active terrorist squad by one of its members…

“The recent affairs are liable to create a know-nothing phenomenon (within the GSS) which will limit their success. The first sign of this is already manifest in the field.”

CLAIM GSS HAS CHANGED

The media also quoted senior GSS officials as saying the Nafsu episode belongs to the past, that there has been a thorough housecleaning in the agency and that new instructions have been issued establishing explicit norms for the interrogation of suspects and the conduct of the interrogators.

Nafsu gained his freedom by admitting, in a plea-bargaining arrangement, that he failed to inform his superiors of contacts he had with officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for that offense, but the sentence was counted as time already served.

Nafsu, who originally demanded complete exoneration, has told reporters that he accepted the plea bargain deal against the advice of his attorney. “I broke down. I couldn’t wait for months and years for completion of the court.”

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