Shin Bet Violated Court Orders, Watchdog Concludes, but Warrants No Disciplinary Action

Inspector of complaints agrees security service failed to tell right-wing activist he was under no obligation to show up for questioning, but finds that the violation was not malicious

Hagar Shezaf
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Right-wing activists demonstrating against the Shin Bet security service in 2018.
Right-wing activists demonstrating against the Shin Bet security service in 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani
Hagar Shezaf

The Justice Ministry’s inspector for complaints against the Shin Bet has upheld an objection by a right-wing activist who was summoned for a warning talk with the security agency without being told he had no obligation to show up.

The judgment by the inspector comes two years after the agency settled the case for 6,500 shekels ($1,880).

By not warning the activist, Shmuel Adani, the Shin Bet violated the guidelines of the High Court of Justice, the inspector’s office said, but it opted simply to make the rules clear and not take disciplinary action against the Shin Bet members involved.

When Adani was summoned to appear in August 2017, he was led to believe that it was a police summons, for which compliance is mandatory. Only when he arrived for questioning did he realize that it was the Shin Bet, which declined to comment for this article.

The inspector found that the Shin Bet staffer who summoned Adani identified himself as “Gavriel Ariel from the Coastal District.” After Adani asked for the summons in writing, he received a police form stating that he was being summoned for an “interrogation.”

When Adani appeared, he was told it was not an interrogation and he was not a suspect; the inspector also found that the police had sent Adani the summons without any involvement by the Shin Bet agent who had spoken to him earlier. At the meeting with the agency, Adani refused to answer questions, including about his political activities, and was told he was free to leave.

“Someone put me in a room and said ‘hello, I’m Shlomi from the Shin Bet,” Adani told Haaretz back in 2018, adding that after he asked if this was an interrogation, the staffer told him “no. I wanted to meet you, to speak with you.”

Menashe Yadoo, a lawyer for the right-wing legal organization Honenu, which represents Adani, said the inspector’s finding “comes on top of a recent court ruling that when the police are asked to carry out an operation for the Shin Bet, they should not substitute their own judgment with the Shin Bet's.”

The Shin Bet is not allowed to act in the guise of the police, Yadoo said.

In 2017, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that someone can be invited to speak with the Shin Bet if “it is made clear to the subject that this is voluntary questioning and that he is not obligated to appear.”

In his decision, which responded to a petition against the Shin Bet by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rubinstein ruled that when the Shin Bet questions people who are not criminal suspects, they must be advised that their remarks cannot be used against them in court.

Also, the summons will not be issued on a form used for criminal suspects, “as the use of such a form might mislead the subject that it is a real [criminal] interrogation.”

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