Former Israel Navy Chief Complains After Routine Questioning at London Airport

Israeli embassy says it was looking into the issue after Marom claimed he was detained; under British law, permission to arrest foreign citizens for war crimes is limited.

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The former commander of the Israeli navy, Rear-Admiral (ret) Eliezer Marom, was questioned Monday morning at London's Heathrow Airport immediately after landing in the United Kingdom, but his claims of being detained beyond routine seem to be unfounded.

After brief questioning, Marom was released and allowed to continue his visit. A spokesman for Israel's embassy in London confirmed the details and said "we are looking into the issue right now."

Following initial inquiries, none of the relevant British authorities, the Home Office, which is responsible for border controls, the London Metropolitan Police and the Foreign Office, are aware of Marom having been detained or questioned.

Israel's Foreign Ministry is continuing to look into the incident but at this stage, it seems that Marom was under the mistaken impression that the routine questions he was asked at passport control at Heathrow Airport and the slight delay he experienced were actually an attempt to detain him over war crimes allegations.

Marom hastened to call the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem where a special team of lawyers was on call to deal with cases of senior Israeli officials who are charged or questioned abroad. A few minutes later it transpired there was no intention to detain him, and that Marom had nothing to be worried about. By that time, however, the story had already been leaked from the Justice Ministry to the Ynet website.

In September 2011, after continuing Israeli pressure, the British parliament amended the Universal Jurisdiction law which allows the arrest of foreign citizens accused of carrying out war crimes. According to the amended law, an arrest can only be carried out with the authorization of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Israel's concerns were raised following the 2005 incident in which Major-General (ret) Doron Almog was forced to remain on an El-Al plane in Heathrow for fear of being arrested once he stepped off the plane.

Pro-Palestinian activists had issued an arrest warrant against Almog for his involvement in the "targeted killing" of Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh in 2002.

Seven years later, Almog canceled an appearance at a fundraising dinner in London scheduled for April at the advice of the Israeli government, which once again feared Israeli state officials and military officers were at risk of being arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes, despite the amendment of the Universal Jurisdiction law.

Nonetheless, since the amendment, a number of senior Israel Defense Forces officers have visited London including Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz.

Then-Israel Navy chief, Rear-Admiral (ret) Eliezer Marom, June 1, 2010.Credit: Alon Ron

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