Livni, Aharonovich: There are no 'invisible' prisoners in Israel

Cabinet members reassure public prisoners receive due process, rights after release of documents revealing 2nd "Prisoner X."

July 10, 2013 13:16
3 minute read.
Tzipi Livni at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.

Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

There are no unknown prisoners in Israel, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni reassured the public on Wednesday.

Aharonovitch said the government “does not conduct itself in darkness.”

“The State of Israel has supervision and a judicial process,” Aharonovitch told the Knesset.

“We are careful to keep the law and the process, along with concern for our security. That concern sometimes requires us to act with great secrecy.”

Aharonovitch repeated himself: “Indeed, there are no anonymous prisoners whose families do not know about their arrest. There are no prisoners that the judicial authorities do not take care of. Information about every prisoner’s arrest is sent to the relevant office and dealt with by the courts, all according to law.”

At the same time, the public security minister explained, not every case can be publicized in order to avoid harm to national security, and the courts put a gag order on such cases.

Some prisoners are held under a fake name, but they still have all of their rights and are not considered “invisible” by the courts, he added.

On Tuesday, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On accused Aharonovitch of lying to the Knesset and the public about “Prisoner X” Ben Zygier in February, when he said there are no anonymous prisoners.

In the plenum Wednesday, Aharonovitch said he cannot give more details about the second “Prisoner X,” whose existence was revealed in court documents Tuesday, but explained that nothing about his case contradicts what he said in February.

“I suggest the public stop speculating on the topic,” he concluded.

Livni also said Wednesday that “it is important for Israeli citizens to know that there are no invisible prisoners sent to jail without a trial, without legal defense and without their families knowing.

“It is possible that there are prisoners with a gag order on their case and the reasons for their arrest if national security or other lives are in danger,” she told Army Radio. “Gag orders are meant to prevent damage. We live in a reality where the reason could be publicized abroad, but it’s worth the effort to try to prevent it in advance, if it could cause great harm.”

Still, Livni insisted that “the [Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet)] doesn’t capture people on the street and make them disappear,” and that as a cabinet member and Justice Minister she never heard of such a case happening.

“I can say with full confidence that we’re not South America,” she quipped.

Earlier Wednesday, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman said “despite all of the text and nonsense I hear about a prisoner X, Y, and Z, you should know that Israel respects the law and all of these cases are under double supervision by the legal system and the parliament, under a Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee.”

The Yisrael Beytenu leader added that the government “protects all [civil] rights, according to law.”

“We respect the rights of each and every person. We insist on being uncompromising [about rights], even though this is a particularly serious case,” he concluded.

According to court documents cleared for publication on Tuesday, a second anonymous security prisoner was held secretly at the Ayalon Prison at the same time that former Mossad employee Ben Zygier took his own life in the facility’s high-security cell 15.

The protocol of an October 2011 hearing in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court examining the death of Zygier – whom Israeli media have nicknamed “Prisoner X” – reads: “It is worth noting that there are specific, detailed guidelines that were used for the previous resident of Block 15 [Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir] and for a separate prisoner jailed in Block 13 [a security cell].”

According to the protocol, the latter prisoner’s attributes “more closely resemble those of the one in cell 15 [Zygier].”

No further details about the man’s identity or his alleged crimes were released for publication.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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