Dirani - Nir Kafri - 2004
Mustafa Dirani released from Rimonim prison in 2004. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Archive: Moti Kimche
Obeid, left, and Dirani in court in 2001. The were among several hundred people held at the secret interrogation facility. Photo by Archive: Moti Kimche

New revelations have come to light on the methods of Unit 504, the Intelligence Corps unit in charge of interrogating prisoners. The methods became public following claims of torture by Iraqi refugees questioned in Israel and by Mustafa Dirani - a captor of Israeli airman Ron Arad.

Arad went missing during a mission over Lebanon in 1986, while Dirani was affiliated with a Lebanese Shi'ite militia and was captured by Israel in 1994.

A reserve army colonel in Unit 504 who is only identified by the Hebrew letter Het provided information about the interrogation methods in general, and about torture allegations against an interrogator known as Captain George, who was at the center Dirani's complaint.

On Thursday, an associate of Captain George denied all of Het's allegations against him. The complainants were represented by attorney Zvi Rish.

Het alleged that he was present at an interrogation in which Captain George inserted a baton up a suspect's rectum. After Het spoke with Rish, Het was apparently questioned under caution by the Israel Police, meaning the police were considering criminal charges against Het.

Captain George, who has never been questioned, now works as Arab affairs adviser to the head of the Jerusalem district police. George is expected to file a lawsuit against the army, which chose not to renew a contract with him due to the complaints against him.

Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan opened the investigation against Het following a complaint against Captain George in 2007.

The investigation was conducted that year and was closed in 2008 for several reasons. Het, who was surprised to learn that he had become a criminal suspect, retracted the most important allegation of his account. Prosecution was also barred for not having been pursued in time, and friction between Het and Captain George cast doubt on the reliability of the complaint.

An associate of Captain George told Haaretz on Thursday that allegations of improper interrogation methods against Dirani or Iraqi refugees would not be successful and were an effort by senior officers who were aware of the unit's interrogation methods and approved them.

George, the source said, never used violent methods against interrogation subjects and is still employed by the state. The source added that Het retracted an accusation regarding the use of the baton.

In 1999, Het contacted Rish and allegedly told him that he was seriously ill and wished to discuss his unit's interrogation methods to "clear his conscience." Het also allegedly insisted that their conversation be taped in case efforts were underway to have him recant his account.

Het said Captain George played a role in every interrogation. "He would just come in, burst into the room, grab the suspect, shake him, get him onto the floor, punch him in the chest, yell and threaten," Het said. Het added that George would enter with a baton, hit the suspect and threaten to insert it into his rectum if he "continued to lie or not talk."

Het also recounted an interrogation in which George allegedly stripped a suspect naked and forced him to drink tea or coffee from an ashtray full of cigarette ashes and then forced shaving cream or toothpaste into the suspect's mouth. "I simply walked out," Het said.

Het said George dealt with almost every case involving an infiltrator into Israel from a neighboring country, including Iran, Iraq and Syria, but also in special circumstances such as the interrogation of Dirani. Het recalled an instance in which he inserted a baton into a suspect's rectum and asked him to sit on the baton unless the suspect was willing to speak.

Het said George's interrogation methods were never stopped because they extracted information. But, Het added, "it could be that that same simple [suspect] was clean and had no connection with what they were casting suspicions about."

Read this article in Hebrew: קצין בכיר שחשף עינויים ביחידה סודית נחקר באזהרה