Justice Ministry rejects criticism of Duma suspects prison visit

Honeinu lawyer Adi Keidar lashed out at Nizri for his visit, accusing him of violating his clients' rights by speaking with the defendants without the presence of their counsel.

the Dawabsha house which was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
the Dawabsha house which was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The Justice Ministry on Monday rebuffed criticism of Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri’s visit and inspection on Sunday of the status of the Duma Jewish terrorist suspects in detention.
Early Monday morning, lawyer Adi Keidar of Honeinu, a right-wing neo-Kahanist legal aid organization, lashed out at Nizri for his visit, accusing him of violating his clients’ rights by speaking with them without the presence of counsel.
The names of his clients are still under gag order, but for weeks there has been a public battle between supporters of the suspects and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) over what interrogation tactics the agency is using and is allowed to use to extract information from the suspects. The court has also denied the lawyers permission to meet with their clients.
Keidar said he views the visit “gravely” since “we are at the stage of investigation in which the prevention of meeting with lawyers has been removed and all the movements and interrogations of my client are coordinated” with him.
He continued, “It was not made clear to me under what authority my colleague decided to ‘inspect’ my client and this without any coordination or at least presenting it and after getting an approval and updating.”
Alluding to suspicious circumstances, Keidar stated, “We are not speaking of a courtesy visit or general happenstance visit to the Shin Bet’s facility.”
Explaining his objection further, he implied that Nizri had visited his clients to influence them not to cooperate with complaints that Keidar filed on Sunday with the new Justice Ministry inspector against the Shin Bet for allegedly torturing his clients during interrogations.
On Sunday night, a Justice Ministry spokesman responded that Nizri had visited the facility to do a hands-on check of the allegations that Keidar has been making.
On Monday, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman vehemently rejected all of the innuendo against Nizri, noting that he is an official inspector of Shin Bet and police facilities and that in that role, he has the authority to perform such inspections at anytime.
She noted that Nizri and his staff visit the various facilities on a periodic basis and that all allegations that he had violated Keidar’s client’s right for Keidar to be present were “completely groundless.”
She added that the visit was ordered by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
Media coverage of the visit has been confusing, since many do not understand the difference between the prosecutorial arm and advisory-arm of the Attorney-General’s Office.
Whereas it would be prohibited for a state prosecutor to visit Keidar’s clients without his presence or approval, Nizri is not a prosecutor and cannot have a role in prosecuting a specific case.
At the same time, he has been the one in the Attorney-General’s Office who has been approving and explaining legal policy decisions for how the detainees are interrogated, when they can meet with their lawyers, and placing some in administrative detention.
Despite that involvement, he is still not a prosecutor, and visiting as an inspector does not violate any law, though if Keidar can show that Nizri went beyond his purview of checking on the detainee’s health into obstructing their complaints against their treatment, an obstruction charge might be made.
Also, on Monday, Nizri took umbrage at a session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee when MK Osama Saadi asked in anger, “Why do you visit the detainees from the Right, but you never met with the non-Jewish detainees?” Nizri rejected the criticism, saying, “In the past I have also met with Palestinian security detainees. This is not the place or time to inquire into the circumstances and the number of times that I did this.”