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2 Oct, 2010 04:48

Former torturer appointed a high-ranking police post in Jerusalem

The appointment of an infamous Israeli interrogator to a high-ranking police post has sent shockwaves among human rights groups.

Known among inmates as Captain George, he is accused of numerous cases of torture and abuse of Arabs.

Now that he is in charge of Arab affairs, many Palestinians fear for their lives.

“I was kidnapped by an Israeli commando on May 21, 1994. They came to my country, to my land, to my house and arrested me before the eyes of my children,” torture victim Mustapha Derani recalls.

Mustapha Derani spent the next eight years in a secret prison, later dubbed Israel's Abu Ghraib. And he remembers his interrogator all too well – a name that still sends chills down the spines of prisoners.

“I have to remember Captain George. He personally participated in the torture and abuse of prisoners. Tortures and abuse in Abu Ghraib were exactly the same as those in the Israeli secret prisons,” Derani maintains.

Six years ago Derani told an Israeli court that Captain George – whose real name is Doron Zahavi – left him naked for his first month in detention. He says he was frequently tortured, including being sodomized with a baton.

Zahavi denied the torture charges, but admitted to interrogating prisoners while they were naked. The civil suit for $1.5 million in damages was never settled because Dirani was released in a prisoner swap before the court issued a ruling. And now, in a move that has stunned human rights groups, he has been appointed to the post of advisor on Arab Affairs to the Jerusalem Police.

Executive Director of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel Dr. Ishai Menuchin sees just one possible reason behind his appointment.

“Putting Captain George as a very high-ranking police man in Jerusalem is giving some sort of message to the Palestinians we are bringing you now someone who knows how to treat you ­ meaning they don’t care much about what the Palestinians feel. They want to threaten them,” Menuchin says.

The message is reverberating throughout the Palestinian territories. These two brothers were arrested last year. Hamed Jaradat was only kept in prison for three days because he was so badly tortured, he says.

“The interrogator led me into a room that was very small, probably 1.5 x 1.5 meters. Through the blindfold I could see small shapes moving around me, but then he put a plastic bag over my head that reached down to my knees. Then he started to beat me. He hit me on the back and pushed me into the wall,” Jaradat says.

According to Menuchin, charges of torture against Israelis are nothing new.

“Since 2001 we know about more than 650 complaints that were sent to the government about torture, and there was not even one criminal investigation meaning that torturers have total impunity. They can do everything that they want and nothing will happen to them here inside Israel,” he says.

Just months into his new position, Zahavi has already been accused of badly injuring a Palestinian in Jerusalem.

The police are refusing to comment on the story. In an email reply to our request for an interview they said they are not dealing with the subject at the moment, but if there are any changes they will update us.

“I think that it is really not Doron Zahavi as kind of a monster but is a system that he is a good representation of, and I think that the fact that facility was not closed and that people were not brought to justice and that our individual complaints were closed as not proving any violation of the law shows that this is governmental policy,” lawyer Yossi Wolfson says.

As for secret prison 391, where the tortures allegedly took place, human rights lawyers are convinced it is still operating somewhere in northern Israel.