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Does Shin Bet exploit family to pressure detainees?
A group advocating for the rights of torture victims claimed on Tuesday that the Shin Bet continues to exploit suspects` family members to pressure detainees to confess.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has released a report claiming that Israeli security agents arrest and threaten to arrest or hurt detainees` relatives – who often have no connection to the crimes allegedly committed by the suspects – in order to entice the detainees to cooperate with the investigation.
According to the group, seven former suspects who were interrogated by the Shin Bet in the years 2009-2011 filed complaints against the security service claiming that they were put in a room with an arrested family member, and were later led to believe that their cooperation could determine the fate of the relative.
Furthermore, 21 detainees reported that the detectives threatened to harm their family if they refuse to confess to the crimes ascribed to them.
Overall, 54 complaints were lodged against Shin Bet interrogators over the specified period.
`They said my son`s dead`
The last report on torture, which was released by the group four years ago, was discussed at the Knesset, where Shin Bet officials promised to avoid employing such techniques in the future.
In 2007, lawyer Raz Nizri wrote on behalf of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that as a general rule, the Shin Bet cannot falsely inform a suspect that a member of his family has been detained. The PCATI claimed in the latest report that the vague phrasing of the regulation allows the agents to use the tactic under certain circumstances.
The report quotes one of the complainants, a resident of the West Bank town of Qabatiya, as saying that his interrogator threatened to arrest his mother and 16-year-old brother. The latter was indeed detained for 20 days, and was freed shortly after the complainant confessed to the accusations brought against him.
According to the report, the boy was arrested solely for the purpose of pressuring his brother.
Another detainee lamented that his interrogators refused to let him know what had happened to his 2-year-old son, who was sleeping next to him while he was arrested in the dead of night.
`The soldiers entered my room and began beating me on the head and on my back,` he said. `I was worried about my son, who was sleeping next to me. The soldier said that my son had died.`
During his questioning he asked the agent about the toddler. `Finish the interrogation, and then we`ll see,` he was told. Only 30 days, the Red Cross notified him that his son was unharmed.
Shin Bet denies torture
Responding to the damning report, the Shin Bet said that individuals suspected of security violations are arrested in accordance with the law, and that the detention procedures are subject to meticulous legal scrutiny.
`Past experience with security violations has taught us that in many cases, several family members are involved in one criminal scheme, so the detention of relatives is unavoidable,` the agency wrote.
The Shin Bet cited the 2011 massacre of the Fogel family, which took place in the West Bank settlement of Itamar. The murders were perpetrated by cousins Hakim and Amjad Awad, who were later hidden by their relatives.
The agency said it was unable to respond to the specific case of the Qabatiya detainee, but noted it could not have legally detained an individual for 20 days for the purpose of pressuring another detainee.
The Shin Bet suggested that second detainee never asked after his son`s fate.
`The suspect met with several officials during the interrogation, including his lawyer, the judges who arraigned him, police detectives and representatives of the Red Cross, who visited him within 14 days of his arrest,` the agency wrote. `There is no indication that the detainee ever asked about his son, and it`s puzzling, to say the least, that he makes the complaints now, almost three years after the fact.`
According to the Shin Bet, the detainee confessed to and was convicted of aiding and abetting a murder.
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