The Shin Bet security service (also known as the General Security Service or by its Hebrew acronym, Shabak) has released an unusually strident statement in response to accusations that its interrogation of the suspects in the Duma arson case amounts to torture.
Attorneys of the men claim they have been denied their basic rights and even tortured by their interrogators, in violation of the law. There have been numerous protests against their detention without trial and the interrogation methods by friends, family and right-wing activists - including a protest yesterday in which activists carried out a mock "torture" session illustrating what they claim were the Shin Bet's methods of interrogation against the detainees.
In its statement, however, the Shin Bet dismissed the accusations as "lies devoid of any connection to reality."
"Over the past few days a false smear campaign continues to be waged against the General Security Services (Shin Bet) and its personnel," the statement begins. "Against this background, the Shabak (Shin Bet) wishes to clarify:
"The Jewish terrorist organization, whose members are being interrogated at this time, are behind serious terrorist attacks, (motivated by) an extremist and anti-Zionist ideology," it continued. "The members of this organization continued to carry out attacks also after the arson in Duma, and viewed that attack as an attack to be emulated."
"The purpose of the interrogation being carried out at this time is to expose the network and prevent future attacks," the statement asserted, while insisting the interrogation itself was being carried out "in accordance with the professional and legal standards to thwart networks planning future serious terrorist attacks."
"During the interrogations, appropriate measures have been taken to this end," it added.
The Shin Bet went on to accuse the suspects' defense team and supporters of using legal hearings and press briefings as platforms to make false accusations, dismissing out of hand claims of alleged use of sexual abuse, physical assault of "sensitive body parts" and even "electrocution," as well as reports that one of the suspects attempted suicide due to the extent of abuse he faced.
"The General Security Service clarifies that these claims are lies, and devoid of any connection to reality!" the statement emphasized, adding that such accusations were being made as part of a strategy to delegitimize the Shin Bet and disrupt its work.
"The activists of the extreme-right and their lawyers are trying to divert public and legal attention from the severe acts of terror carried out by the said organization," it added, noting that every step of the investigation was subject to strict legal oversight from the Attorney General and other senior legal and government officials, including via "more than 100 hearings of different types" which dealt with the suspects.
The Shin Bet vowed to continue working to "thwart terrorism" and "to bring to justice" the members of the alleged Jewish extremist group, who believe "that the State of Israel does not have a right to exist."
"Their central vision is to overthrow the Israeli government, through the use of violence (to the point of murdering Palestinians), initiating a rebellion in order to appoint a king, undermining relations between Israel and other countries, expelling non-Jews and attacking minorities," it concluded, citing documents seized from the suspects and their associates.