Connect to share and comment

Claims of foul play in Corrie case

An Israeli commander interfered with key witness in case of U.S. protester killed by bulldozer in Gaza, papers show.

Dated March 18, 2003, a military police investigator petitioning a judge for permission to conduct an autopsy on Corrie's body explains that ''we arrived only today because there was an argument between the general of southern command and the military advocate general about whether to open an investigation and under what circumstances.'' The judge granted the request provided the autopsy would be done in the presence of a U.S. diplomat as the Corrie family requested. But in the end, the inquest was carried out by Israel's chief pathologist without any U.S. official being there, in apparent violation of the judge's ruling.

In a phone interview from Olympia, Washington, Craig Corrie, Rachel's father, termed Almog's intervention in Valermov's testimony ''outrageous.''

''When you see someone in that position taking those steps you not only have to be outraged, you have to ask why is he covering up, what has he done that he needs to take these steps to cover it up?" he said.

Queried for this article on Wednesday, Almog denied halting Valermov's testimony.

''I never gave such an order, I don't know such a document. I conducted my own investigation, I don't remember what I found," he said. "There were 12,000 terrorist incidents when I was general in charge of southern command. I finished seven years ago, if they want to invite me [to testify] they know the address. I certainly didn't disrupt an investigation, this is nonsense. In all of my service I never told anyone not to testify.''

Asked if he gave an order to harm foreign activists interfering with the army's work, Major-General Almog responded: ''What are you talking about? You don't know what a general in charge of command is. The general in charge of command has 100,000 soldiers. What are you talking about?''

Moshe Negbi, legal commentator for the state-run Voice of Israel radio, said of Almog's interdiction: ''If a commander prevents a witness from testifying then it is disruption of an investigation, a criminal offense whose penalty is three years imprisonment.''

Almog narrowly escaped arrest in Britain in 2005 on a war crimes charge for allegedly ordering the destruction in 2002 of 50 civilian homes in Rafah, where Corrie was later killed. Israel said the homes were being used to stage attacks. Almog was tipped off to the arrest attempt and did not disembark at Heathrow, returning instead to Israel on the El Al flight

Asked about Almog's interdiction, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said: ''Any military police investigations are completely independent and cannot be influenced by outside sources.''

The Israeli state attorneys handling the case, Irit Koren and Nir Gincharsky declined to be interviewed for this article. The trial is due to resume in September.