JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Shin Bet security service, in an unusual move, issued a statement denying allegations that it has tortured Jewish teens held in connection with the firebombing of a Palestinian home that killed three.
The statement issued on Thursday comes after accusations by the detainees’ families and attorneys, and an ongoing debate among Israeli politicians and religious leaders.
“Over the past few days there continues to be a deceitful, slanderous campaign against the Shin Bet security service and its workers,” the agency said in the statement, adding that it “wishes to emphasize that these claims are lies that are completely disconnected from reality.”
The campaign against the security service and the questioning of the legitimacy of the investigation is designed to divert the public’s attention from the “heinous, terrorist acts” that are being investigated, according to the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet said the Jewish terror group it is investigating plans to violently overthrow the government of Israel, crown a king and kick out non-Jews.
The Shin Bet rarely responds to such allegations.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin also defended the Shin Bet, which is known as the Israel Security Agency.
“In the war for the security and character of the State of Israel, the members of the Israel Security Agency are a power of defense – the very best of our sons and daughters, who work tirelessly so that all of us may sleep peacefully at night,” Rivlin said in a statement issued Thursday.
“We must all be cautious not to slander, or weaken the ISA. Harm done to the ISA, is harm done to the security of Israel,” he said.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Education Minister and the head of the right-wing Jewish Home Party Naftali Bennett told Army Radio in an interview that he has personally investigated the claims that teens detained in the investigation into the July 31, Duma attack, that left an 18-month-old Palestinian boy and his parents dead, have been tortured during interrogations.
“I can assert that all the actions that are taken — and they are really extraordinary actions in light of an unusual situation — are under control, and with close legal supervision, and they are aimed at preventing the next attack,” he said.
On Monday, one of the detained teens, who has been identified by the New York-based daily Forward, told a judge during a closed hearing in Petah Tikvah Magistrate’s Court that the torture was so bad that he tried to commit suicide in prison.