Shin Bet Pays Damages to Right-wing Activist for Violating High Court Order

The security service paid 6,500 shekels for failing to tell an activist he could refuse an interview after being summoned for questioning

File photo: A Shin Bet guard
Tess Sheflan

The Shin Bet security service paid 6,500 shekels ($1,800) to a right-wing activist they summoned to a "warning talk" without clarifying the activist's ability to refuse, violating a High Court of Justice ruling.

In July 2017 Shmuel Adani was summoned for questioning by Israeli police. It was only after he reported to the station, as required by law, that he discovered that he would in fact be interviewed by the Shin Bet.

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Speaking with Haaretz after the interview, Adani said: “Someone brought me into a room and said, ‘Hi, I’m Shlomi from the Shin Bet.'" When Adani asked if he was being interrogated the agent replied, "No, I only want to meet you, to talk with you." The agent asked Adani about his political activities. 

Through his lawyer, Menashe Yadoo of Honenu, an Israeli nonprofit organization that provides legal aid to Jewish terror suspects, Adani demanded 15,000 shekels in compensation from the Shin Bet but settled for 6,500 shekels out of court, in exchange for withdrawing his suit.

The lawyers for both parties informed the Safed Magistrate's Court in writing last month that they had reached a settlement. A suit by a second activist is being handled in the same court.

In 2017, responding to a petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the High Court laid down clear rules for summoning political activists for warning talks with Shin Bet agents. Activists can be summoned only after “consultations with the Shin Bet’s legal advisor,” and only if “it is made clear to the person being questioned that the interview is voluntary," the ruling said.

Moreover, the summoning cannot be issued on the same form used to call individuals to mandatory interviews. Anyone who chooses to report for questioning must be informed by the Shin Bet agent that, as they are not being questioned under caution, nothing they say can be used against them in court.

"We are forced to fight, tooth and nail against the erosion of the rights of right-wing activists by security authorities with the support of a strong public and pro-High Court mood," Yadoo said.

"After internal auditors ignored our requests, we filed a justified civil suit that was accepted even without the prosecution submitting a statement of defense on behalf of the Shin Bet, which clearly even the prosecution realized it had acted unlawfully."

Regarding Adani's case, the court did not rule on the suit; instead, the plaintiff reached a settlement with the state.

In a written response, the Shin Bet said it, "carries out debriefings based on information that points to suspicion of an offense that was or will be committed. ... One case is still pending in court and we have no intention of commenting on it," while in the case of Adani, "it was decided to end [the lawsuit] with a settlement by rejecting the suit and paying a certain sum."