Parliament (Knesset) Members Argue: Okay to have Secret Prisoners? Former Shin Bet Official (Now in Knesset): It’s an Exceptional Case

A rare debate has broken out in Israel, on the subject of how problems, scandals, and misdeeds within the intelligence community are handled.  Miri Regev, a former military censor (and spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces), is now a Member of Knesset (MK) in Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s Likud Party.  Regev is condemning other MK’s who rose, this week, to ask the Minister of Justice questions about “Prisoner X” — reportedly an Australian-born Mossad operative who was secretly jailed and then committed suicide in a special high-security cell in Ayalon Prison.

Miri Regev, MK, former army censor

Among other things, some MK’s — and some media figures on the radio and in newspapers — are asking why it took two years for an investigation to conclude officially that the man’s death was caused by suicide.

Regev told Israel Radio that the fact that a judge issued a gag order, preventing any reports or comments on the case, indicates that Israel’s security would be harmed if information were to get out.

Israel Hasson, MK and former Shin Bet official

Another MK, Israel Hasson — who used to be deputy director of the domestic security agency Shin Bet — told the same radio show: “This is an unusual case, an exception.”  Hasson suggested that it is far from routine to hold an Israeli suspect in total secret.  In these cases, he added, judges and lawyers are involved. An official government statement says the man’s family was informed, immediately, when he was arrested in 2010.  Australia’s ABC television, which broke the story in a half-hour report this week, said the man was Ben Zygier — who renamed himself Ben Alon after moving to Israel, and also had an Australian passport in the name of “Ben Allen” — and that his family in Melbourne had his body flown there for burial in December 2010.

Hasson said: “There’s no little man sitting in a basement, making people vanish.”  When the radio host, Aryeh Golan, wondered how we could be certain that laws and rights are honored, the former Shin Bet man said: “You can feel certain, and even proud.”

February 14, 2013

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