A Brave Judge Stands Up to Military Bullies

Behind closed doors and far from the public eye, the trial of Brigadier General (res.) Yitzhak Yaakov is in progress. Last week, one courageous judge exposed a small part of the Kafka-like story of a man once called "Mr. Security."

Behind closed doors and far from the public eye, the trial of Brigadier General (res.) Yitzhak Yaakov is in progress. Last week, one courageous judge exposed a small part of the Kafka-like story of a man once called "Mr. Security."

Judge Uri Goren, president of Tel Aviv District Court, laid out in harsh and no uncertain terms the absurdity of accusing Yaakov of serious espionage, and also raged about his ill-treatment under house arrest. The story throws a frightening spotlight on the malice and cynicism - and with no supervision - with which the defense establishment can treat an Israeli citizen.

After half a year under house arrest in a Tel Hashomer hotel, Yaakov's attorneys asked the court to ease the conditions of his arrest, to decrease the number of guards, to allow his wife to have privacy with him, and to allow him to receive visitors. Yaakov had to rent three rooms in the hotel - for himself, for his wife (who was not allowed to spend the night with him), and for four security guards - at a cost of about NIS 40,000 a month.

The State Prosecutor's Office claimed in its reply, that the conditions should not be eased, because the man is dangerous. Regarding the high cost of paying for the hotel rooms and the guards, the representative of the State Prosecutor wrote, cynically and with undisguised malice: "It is true that keeping a dangerous man in [prison] would not be so expensive, but this option was rejected by the defendant."

Justice Goren harshly criticized the State Prosecutor and military security over their treatment of Yaakov. The importance of the judge's ruling lies in its not stopping, as expected, with a practical decision on a request for easing conditions of detention, but in going much further, and expressing severe criticism of the indictment against Yaakov for serious espionage.

Regarding the prosecutor's severe rulings in the indictment, the judge said: "I am not convinced that the defendant (Yaakov) acted with lack of good faith, out of an obsession, and he certainly did not act with the intention of harming the state, in whose founding and strengthening he was and still is an important partner."

His words contain a clear opinion regarding the mistaken judgment of the prosecutor in serving the indictment. To emphasize his strong displeasure even further, the president of the District Court added: "My unequivocal impression from all the things brought before me is that one cannot under any circumstances say the defendant acted maliciously to undermine the security of the state. The defendant, who wanted to record in the history books of the State of Israel his contribution to its security, never dreamed in his worst nightmares, that someone would be likely to consider him a danger to the security of the state."

So far as the state's claim that Yaakov should not be trusted, Goren writes "it has been proven, to the satisfaction of the court, that the defendant justified the confidence placed in him, and is deserving of further trust."

Part of the series of humiliations suffered by Yaakov was revealed during the proceedings as well. A common friend of Yaakov and of recently assassinated minister of tourism Rehavam Ze'evi, who came to Israel for the minister's funeral, happened to be in the court on the day when Yaakov was brought there. When he passed him by in the corridor, this same friend shook Yaakov's hand and exchanged a few polite words with him. In response, and after rushing to phone the Defense Ministry, Yaakov's guards decided to punish him by denying him lunch, although he suffers from diabetes, and must eat regularly.

Of this incident, which the prosecutor brought as proof that Yaakov continues to be dangerous, and therefore not deserving of trust, Judge Goren wrote: "It would had been better for the plaintiff had she not raised the `incident' in which the defendant shook the hand of an old friend ... The behavior of the guards and of the security guards in this instance proves the shortcomings of the plaintiffs rather than of the defendant, and it proves nothing except unwarranted inflexibility and a failure to exercise any judgment on the part of the former."

In speaking of the prosecution's objection to allowing Yaakov's wife to stay in the same room with him on the grounds that he was likely to reveal secrets he had heard in the course of the trial against him, Goren wrote: "As to the essence of this strange reason (during the course of the trial, does the plaintiff really expose the defendant, who is accused of handing over secrets without permission, to other secrets in addition to those known to him?), the conclusion of the prosecution's case constitutes a new circumstance. The fear that the defendant will share with his partner secret information he receives in the course of his trial loses its relevance with the conclusion of the prosecution's case." And therefore "the defendant should no longer be denied the company of his wife without the presence of security guards."

The judge's sharp words, only parts of which were cleared for publication, shed light on the dark side of the defense establishment. In the absence of real supervision of the department responsible for security in the defense establishment, its head, Yehiel Horev, enjoys a completely free hand. Occasionally, as in the case of Yaakov, and in the case of Avner Cohen's book on nuclear policy, Horev allows himself to behave according to norms that have no place in a democratic state.

The sad part of this story is the groveling acquiescence of the State Prosecutor to be a tool in the hands of the defense establishment. Instead of protecting the citizen against the security goons, the State Prosecutor is taking a stand even more extreme than Horev's.

Judge Goren's courageous rulings do not illuminate one of State Prosecutor Edna Arbel's finest hours.