Shin Bet Men Suspected of Ordering Search of Palestinian Woman’s Private Parts Likely Won't Stand Trial

Two Shin Bet officers are expected to undergo a disciplinary hearing and one IDF commander might be put on trial, pending military decision on the case

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian women cross an Israeli checkpoint between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, West Bank, May 18, 2018.

The State Prosecutor’s Office is expected to close down the investigation against two Shin Bet officers suspected of ordering female soldiers to search a Palestinian woman’s private parts for no particular reason in 2015.

A special team of the police investigation department in the Justice Ministry and the Military Police has questioned under caution three Shin Bet personnel, two of whom are expected to undergo a disciplinary tribunal, sources said.

A source familiar with the case said that the two are a Shin Bet investigator who was in the Palestinian woman’s apartment in the West Bank during the search and another who was in charge of the area.

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The team also interrogated an IDF officer on suspicion of instructing female soldiers under his command to carry out the search. The officer said the Shin Bet man in the apartment instructed him to carry out the search, claiming it was an urgent security requirement.

Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek, is expected to decide whether to put the IDF officer on trial for a criminal offense

A brigade commander and a battalion commander have also been questioned in the case, apparently as witnesses rather than suspects. According to one source, there are “fundamental contradictions” in the versions of both the suspects and the witnesses.

The IDF Spokesman told Haaretz that "a final decision has yet to be made by the military prosecution."

This is the first time the unit responsible for investigating these complaints, known by its Hebrew acronym Mivtan, has opened a probe into allegations of violations of suspects’ rights.

The investigation was opened after the head of the Mivtan at the time, attorney Jana Mudzgurishvilly, who knew of the case, encouraged the Palestinian woman to complain after the woman was re-arrested in 2017.

The Justice Ministry, under whose authority Mivtan operates, told Haaretz that a final decision on the case hasn’t been made yet. The Shin Bet told Haaretz that it cannot comment on the case as it is being handled by the Justice Ministry.

The incident occurred in 2015 when an IDF detachment was sent to arrest the Palestinian woman, a West Bank resident who was suspected of actively abetting a group of Hamas men planning an attack. At least two Shin Bet members accompanied the group to the woman’s home at about 1:00 A. M. and arrested her.

The Palestinian said in her complaint that two Shin Ben men interrogated her and threatened her, while soldiers searched her home. After the search, one of the Shin Bet men ordered two female soldiers in the group to search her private parts.

They took her aside, stripped her and performed an “invasive search, like a gynecologic examination” according to the complaint. The woman resisted, but one of the female soldiers told her that if she refuses, the group could carry out the search on her forcibly.

According to the woman, she underwent both vaginal and anal probes by one female soldier. Afterwards, another female soldier came and performed the same search, saying she received orders to do so.

According to the case, the Shin Bet men claimed that they were searching for cellphone sim cards allegedly used by the woman to contact Hamas men.

Despite the grave suspicions against her, ultimately she was convicted of lesser offenses and sentenced to two years in prison, but was released soon afterward.

She was arrested again in 2017 but when the probe was launched, the legal procedures against the Palestinian complainant ended abruptly and she left the West Bank with a foreign passport and moved overseas. Consequently, putting the Shin Bet men on disciplinary trial could run into a legal problem, as the complainant has no intention of returning to testify against them.

Following the incident’s report in Haaretz, senior Shin Ben officers exerted pressure on the men involved in the case to quit the service. A source familiar with the issue said many in the Shin Bet have criticized the pressure on the suspects and that as far as is known, the suspects have remained in their posts.