Israeli court lifts gag order on military espionage case

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The Independent Online

An Israeli court yesterday lifted a gag order on a military espionage case in which a former female soldier was charged with leaking classified military documents to an Israeli newspaper.

Some of the documents showed that top military officers approved killings of wanted Palestinians in what were ostensibly arrest operations in the West Bank, in violation of strict limits imposed on such assassinations by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Anat Kamm, 23, the former soldier, had been under house arrest since December, but the Israeli media was barred from reporting the case under a sweeping gag order obtained by the Israeli authorities. The restrictions were eased after details of the case were reported by foreign websites and newspapers, including The Independent, and a growing chorus of critics in Israel said that the blackout on local media coverage was a violation of press freedom and the public's right to know.   

The gag order had been challenged in court by the Haaretz newspaper and Israel's Channel Ten television channel.

An indictment revealed Thursday alleges that Kamm copied some 2000 classified documents while she worked in the office of the military's top West Bank commander, and after her discharge passed some of them to a Haaretz reporter, Uri Blau. About 700 documents were classified as top secret.

Some of the documents were cited in a 2008 article by Blau which reported that top officers of the army and leaders of the Shin Bet security service had authorized killings of wanted Palestinian militants in operations in which they could have been arrested, in violation of the Supreme Court ruling. The article was approved for publication by the Israeli military censor.

 Blau is currently in London, out of reach of Israeli prosecutors, and Haaretz said on its website that it was negotiating with the Israeli legal authorities for his return. Yuvak Diskin, the chief of the Shin Bet, told reporters Thursday that Blau was suspected of holding classified documents obtained from Kamm, and that the Shin Bet wanted them recovered. "It's the dream of any enemy state to get their hands on such documents," he said.  

Kamm, who became a media columnist for an Israeli website after completing her military service, faces charges that carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. She has been charged with espionage – possessing and passing classified information with the intent of harming state security.

Eitan Lehman, a lawyer for Kamm, asserted that his client had caused no harm to state security and had no intention of doing so. "All the newspaper stories were published with the consent of the military censor," he said. "If she had posed a threat to national security, she would not have been allowed to stay home and continue working." 

A hearing in court in which Kamm will be formally charged is scheduled for April 14.

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