Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak could be held responsible for the police killings of 13 Arab Israelis in October 2000, Israeli judicial sources assessed Wednesday.
A commission investigating the deaths has warned Barak, who was prime minister at the time of the killings, that a report on the incident could implicate him, the sources quoted by public television said. The commission's complaints against Barak are apparently on the level of ministerial rather than personal responsibility. He may, for instance, be accused of not having been involved enough in police handling of the riots.
The commission chaired by Supreme Court Judge Theodore Orr issued similar warnings to former internal security minister Shlomo Ben Ami and nine police officials.
Three Arab Israeli leaders, including prominent deputy Azmi Bishara, who is already facing trial for statements in which he allegedly supported Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hizbullah, also received warnings.
The three could be accused by the commission of inciting violence, the sources were quoted as saying by AFP.
In the wake of these letters, the commission's work will enter a new phase, in which it will more closely resemble a courtroom proceeding. During this stage, recipients of the letters will have the right to summon witnesses, cross-examine them and otherwise try to refute the commission's tentative findings, Haaretz reported.
The commission issued the warnings in order to allow the 14 people named in the report to seek legal counsel.
The 13 Arab Israelis were killed by the Israeli police attempting to quell demonstrations in support of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, which had only begun days earlier.
In November 2001, Barak was questioned by the commission and blamed the deaths on "a minority of extremists" from the Arab Israeli community whom he accused of forcing police to put down the protests.
Minister Ben Ami, meanwhile, charged that policemen were responsible for the killings because they opened fire on the protesters despite his orders for restraint.
The Orr commission was set up in November 2000 under pressure from Arab Israelis and Israeli human rights groups.
Under Israeli law, a state commission cannot launch legal proceedings but it can recommend action as well as administrative sanctions. (Albawaba.com)
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