Rights Group: Shin Bet Lied About Interrogations

Group claims Shin Bet admission of police presence during questioning differs from previous stance.

A human rights group has accused the Shin Bet of giving false information about its method of interrogating suspects, in order to prevent its procedures from being documented.

According to attorney Eliyahu Avram of the Public Committee against Torture, the Shin Bet's alleged prevarication came to light when one of its officials told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday that it carried out its interrogations with police.

Prior to this, the security organization had claimed that police were not present during interrogations in order to bypass a law that requires documenting procedures, Avram said.

"I was surprised they admitted it," Avram said. "They claimed at an earlier hearing that there were two different stages of interrogation. Now they are saying the opposite: that it's a joint interrogation."

During the meeting on Tuesday, a Shin Bet official told the MKs, "Interrogations were carried out in cooperation at the same instillation and sometimes in the same room. Each organization has its own field of interest. They are essentially one and the same."

Shin Bet officials said in response that the statements made by its representative conveyed no new or contradictory information. "This is not new or extraordinary," an official said. "The procedures are the same. Part of thwarting an attack requires putting people behind bars."

They said police officers are involved in their interrogations because of their expertise in gathering evidence.

The Knesset committee's meeting on Tuesday also discussed making permanent the temporary law exempting police from documenting the interrogation of people suspected of security offenses. Committee members were concerned that combining police and Shin Bet interrogations may lead to breaches in the law.

"If you're mixing things up, you can create a system that lawmakers did not intend," said MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), the chairman of the committee.

"This is the slippery slope syndrome," MK Zahava Gal-On of Meretz criticized.