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Judge puts Barak under suspicion

The Guardian – 28 February 2002
 
Israel’s former prime minister, Ehud Barak, and his security minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, were warned last night by a panel of judges that they are under suspicion of acting illegally during its investigations into events at the start of the intifada.
 
The commission, headed by Justice Theodor Or, sent both men letters advising them to prepare for more investigation. It has powers to recommend prosecutions for those it warns.
 
Mr Barak’s government fell in February last year after his negotiations with the Palestinian leadership failed to reach a peace agreement. His challenger, Ariel Sharon, defeated him by a large margin.
 
Justice Or has spent a year examining the events in October 2000 which led to 13 Arab citizens being shot dead by police during protests in the northern Galilee region.
 
Evidence presented to the commission has shown that the demonstrators were unarmed. Testimonies, including some from police officers, have hinted at a shoot-to-kill policy.
 
It was unclear last night what aspects of Mr Barak’s and Mr Ben-Ami’s role in the affair prompted the judges’ warning. They may be suspected of having provided false testimony.
 
The Or Commission also examined Mr Sharon’s visit to the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, in Jerusalem on September 28 2000 – an event seen as triggering the intifada. Mr Barak and Mr Ben-Ami were questioned about their role in approving the visit.
 
Yesterday also marked the first day of the trial of Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament. He is charged with “supporting a terrorist organisation”, which carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
Mr Bishara had become the first knesset member in history to lose parliamentary immunity for something he had said, rather than done.

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