Zygier Case Roils Knesset, MK’s Immunity at Issue

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Zygier spy case continued to develop on Monday as an issue of state censorship and parliamentary immunity for Knesset members who speak out on sensitive security matters.

Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon explained in a letter that “parliamentary immunity is not unlimited,” after three MK’s discussed the affair in the plenum, even while the gag order on the case was mostly still in effect, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Yinon stressed that his legal opinion is not a formal position on the questions MKs Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) and Dov Henin (Hadash) asked Justice Minister Ya’acov Ne’eman last week, rather an explanation of the basic principles of immunity.

“Freedom of expression is a basic right in Israel, but like every other basic right, it is not absolute. As such, the law limits certain expressions in order to protect other important interests, such as incitement to racism, violence or terror, revealing secret information, libel, breaking a gag order, etcetera. These are expressions that, in certain cases, could lead to criminal liability,” Yinon explained.

According to Yinon’s legal opinion, if an MK planned in advance to violate a gag order, he or she is not protected by parliamentary immunity and is liable to prosecution like any other citizen. In addition, he wrote that the Knesset is not an “immune territory” on which lawmakers cannot be brought to court for their words.

Yinon’s letter had immediate repercussions. MK Miri Regev (Likud-Beiteinu) announced soon after receiving it that she plans to submit a bill meant to put Gal-On, Henin and Tibi on trial.

“MKs are not above the law, and it is not right, just to make a headline, that they would harm national security,” Regev said.

Meanwhile, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said on Monday at a conference in Ra’anana that he would wait a few days before deciding whether to conduct an inquiry into the matter. He said he wanted to wait and see how
the Knesset State Control Committee, the attorney-general, and the government in general, treated the issue.

Shapira acknowledged receipt of a request to investigate the matter by Labor MK Nachman Shai.

It is unclear as yet whether the issue comes under Shapira’s jurisdiction, and he has not received an official request to investigate from the State Control Committee, which he must answer to.

Also on Monday, Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the Knesset plenum that Ben Zygier, the alleged Mossad operative who killed himself in prison in 2010, received full legal and psychological services.

“Let me say clearly: There are no anonymous prisoners in Israel,” Aharonovitch stated during a summary in the plenum of his time as minister. “There is appropriate supervision, laws are followed and there is great concern for the security of the State of Israel, which, in order to protect, sometimes leads to secretive action.”

According to Aharonovitch, Zygier was seen by independent and Prison Services’ mental health professionals.

“Any suicide is unfortunate and difficult. We have taken action that drastically decreased the number of incidents in recent years,” the minister added, pointing out that Judge Dafna Blatman Kadari investigated Zygier’s death immediately after it took place and declared it a suicide.

According to Aharonovitch, Zygier agreed to be held under a false name for national security reasons and in order to protect his family. He also agreed to the gag order, which was upheld by then-Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch.

Full coverage of this story is planned for the weekly edition of Hamodia.