Panel Looking at Murders of Police Informants Failed to Quiz Witnesses

Officer who blew the whistle describes committee as 'cover-up'

A police inquiry committee investigating whether police conduct was at fault in the 2006 murder of two informants has not questioned a single witness since its four members began sifting through the evidence in 2007, according to sources knowledgeable about a recent meeting in which high-ranking police officials discussed the investigation with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador.

The investigation methods have sparked renewed charges by a retired police officer that police may be covering up the circumstances of the informants' deaths. The accusation first came to light in 2007, but has been lent additional force by concern over an expected lawsuit by the informants' families.

The fact that the committee has been barred from questioning anyone shows that "this is an impotent committee, without powers," Yisrael Abarbanel, a retired chief superintendent in the police force, said yesterday.

"To me, the fact that they weren't allowed to question anyone involved says that the team was told from the start which conclusion they should reach: that there was no connection between police conduct and the tragic outcome," he said. "My conclusion is that this is a cover-up."

The police said in a statement yesterday that the committee is acting in accordance with the strict orders of the State Prosecutor's Office, in an effort to refrain from obstructing the ongoing criminal investigation of the murders.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador told police officials at the meeting last month that the committee report could be used by the informants' families if they sue the police, according to the sources knowledgeable about the meeting. They said Lador advised the police to enumerate possible reasons for the informants' death that are unrelated to police conduct, such as disputes with criminal suspects.

Prosecution officials expect family members of the murdered informants to sue the police for damages, and fear the plaintiffs will ask for extensive compensation.

The Justice Ministry confirmed that the possibility of a civil suit was raised at the meeting, but said the discussion dealt solely with how to move forward with the investigation.

The police officials told Lador there are some flaws in the way police handle informants, but Yoav Segalowitz, who heads the police force's investigations and intelligence division, said the inquiry committee has found no evidence linking police conduct with the deaths.

The police inquiry committee, headed by Meni Yitzhaki, is investigating the 2006 death of Eyal Salhov from Pardes Katz and the death a month later of an informant who provided information that led prosecutors to drop the charges against a suspect in the 2005 death of 3-year-old Neta Katayev and her aunt, Nadia Galibov.

In 2007 Abarbanel told State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss he thought top police officials were complicit in covering up the circumstances of the informants' death.

After Abarbanel filed a detailed complaint, the police asked Lindenstrauss to hold off on an investigation for fear it would obstruct the police inquiry that had already begun. Lindenstrauss agreed to wait until police file their report on the deaths.