Witnesses' Refusal to Testify May Doom Israel Panel's Pollard Probe

Associated Press

The commission appointed to investigate the Pollard spy scandal may be doomed because a lawyer has advised three key witnesses not to testify and the investigators cannot force them to do so.

David Libai, the attorney, said Thursday that he fears that his clients' statements to the inquiry, which is being conducted in private, could be used against them in a U.S. court if the findings were turned over to the United States.

Jonathan Jay Pollard, a 32-year-old American Jew who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was sentenced early this month in Washington to life in prison for selling U.S. military secrets to Israel.

Israel says the spy operation was run without government authorization by a Defense Department agency since disbanded.

No Subpoena Powers

The two-man commission appointed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to investigate cannot issue subpoenas requiring witnesses to appear.

Libai said in a telephone interview: "The law is not clear about the commission's authority or the rights of those questioned. There is nothing that says what they tell the commission cannot be used against them in a U.S. court of law."

If Joseph Yagur, Irit Erb and Ilan Ravid refuse to answer questions, the commission may disband. Chairman Yehoshua Rotenstreich, a lawyer and president of Israel's Press Council, said when appointed that he would resign if he could not question everyone involved.

Yagur and Ravid were science attaches at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and Erb was a secretary. They allegedly were involved in handling Pollard.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that the inquiry will go forward.

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