Human Rights NGO Monitoring Palestinians' Legal Rights Gets Robbed of Internal Use Documents

No signs of forced entry were found in their offices, raising suspicion that rightist groups managed to plant a mole in the organization.

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Hundreds of documents have been stolen from the database of Yesh Din, the NGO monitoring the legal situation of Palestinians in the West Bank. The group's legal adviser, attorney Michael Sfard, said his office also had also internal use documents stolen.

This may be the first case of information theft from a human rights organization in Israel.

No signs of forced entry were found in either Tel Aviv office, raising the suspicion that rightist groups have managed to plant a mole in the organization.

In a complaint filed on Tuesday with the police, Sfard, and Yesh Din's chief investigator, Lior Yavne, said that they've been approached by reporters from Makor Rishon and free sheet Yisrael Hayom for comment on the content of documents copied or stolen from cases dealing with property and physical damage to Palestinians. A photograph of one of the documents was published in Makor Rishon, a newspaper with a marked pro-settler stance. The newspaper quoted from a dozen cases available only to a few members of Yesh Din, and said it was in possession of other material.

A check by Sfard's staff found that notebooks with internal memos and call records were stolen from one of the office drawers. The missing documents refer to Yesh Din activity, but also to other clients, and Sfard told police the use of the documents violates attorney-client privilege. Tel Aviv police said that the complaint was being investigated.

"It seems we are witnessing a new and dangerous phase of the assault on human rights organizations in Israel and the territories," Sfard said. "We should hope the law enforcement authorities will take the appropriately serious view of the matter."

Uri Elitzur, editor of the Makor Rishon weekend supplement, told Haaretz: "We do not hold any stolen documents. We didn't send in reporters or Watergate-like plumbers, and we most certainly did not steal any documents. The documents reached us and, as is customary here, we cannot disclose their sources." Yisrael Hayom did not respond to a request for comment.

Palestinian boys look at websites on the Internet in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Credit: AP



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