Spanish judge to continue probe in Saleh Shehadeh killing
Judge Fernando Andreu says he will continue investigation because Israel failed to do so.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, ETGAR LEFKOVITS, HERB KEINON
After reviewing documents forwarded by the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu will be continuing his investigation of seven top Israeli military and government officials for suspected crimes against humanity, Spanish judicial sources said on Friday.
The alleged offenses relate to the targeted killing of Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh in Gaza City on July 22, 2002.
Palestinian officials said 15 people were killed in the raid - Shehadeh, 49, the commander of the head of Hamas's Izzadin Kassam "military wing" in Gaza, his wife, a daughter, and his right-hand man, Zaher Nasser, 35, as well as nine children.
The judge reportedly reached his decision after determining that the Israeli documents showed the state had not launched any probe into the incident.
That decision was critical for determining jurisdiction in a case where the concept of "universal jurisdiction" could be applied.
However, the Foreign Ministry's Hebrew media spokesman, Yossi Levy, said Saturday that following contradictory reports in the Spanish media, Israel was informed by Spain that there has been no change in the case, and that the Spanish authorities were still "looking into" the matter.
After the Spanish judge first announced his intention in January to investigate, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, who Israeli officials said, had assured Livni that no charges would be brought against the Israelis, and there would be "no ambush."
According to Israeli sources, that situation still prevails.
Nevertheless, one of the Israelis named in the investigation, former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res) Doron Almog was advised by the Foreign Ministry recently not to travel to Spain.
Universal jurisdiction allows Spain and other European countries to prosecute foreigners for war crimes if a court is satisfied that the suspects will not be tried for their acts in their home country.
Andreu is probing the actions taken by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud MK Moshe Ya'alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then-OC Air Force; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister's bureau chief, Brig.-Gen. Mike Herzog, who was a senior Defense Ministry official in 2002; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Almog.
Should Andreu choose to issue an international arrest warrant for any of the seven, they could be arrested upon arrival in any EU member state.
The Spanish government has been considering a proposal to amend the controversial war crimes law that now allows the court to investigate the Israelis.
"The [Spanish] government is considering whether to introduce a proposal to change legislation which has been abused by groups all over the world," Juan Gonzalez-Barba, deputy head of mission at the Spanish Embassy in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post.
Such legislation would have to be introduced by the Spanish Justice Ministry, and could take months, he said.
The Spanish diplomat, who was speaking at a Hebrew University conference on the aftermath of the Gaza war, added that it was uncertain that such legislation would be retroactive and therefore affect the case before the courts.
He conceded that the matter could impact relations between the two countries.
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