Knesset members who last week in parliament broke the gag order surrounding Ben Zygier’s imprisonment and suicide could be tried if it was a premeditated act, but no steps will likely be taken, Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon said Monday.
MKs Dov Hanin (Hadash), Zahava Gal-on (Meretz) and Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am Ta’al) interrupted a routine parliamentary meeting last Tuesday in order to pose questions about the top-secret detention of a Mossad agent, later identified as Ben Zygier, who was the subject of an Australian investigative TV report. The MKs exercised their parliamentary immunity in order to level the questions at outgoing Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman without fear of prosecution.
They were swiftly rebuked by former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and Likud-Beytenu MK Miri Regev, herself a former chief censor, who said they had “abused” their parliamentary rights and potentially harmed Israel’s national security.
Yinon wrote in his legal opinion published Monday that “premeditation of statements constitutes a crime unprotected by [parliamentary] immunity, and permits in principle trying an MK for it, like anybody else.” He added that MKs could be investigated and tried for planning and publishing secret materials in any manner.
The decision to investigate and try the MKs rests with the attorney general, he noted, adding that in all likelihood Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein does not intend to take any legal recourse against Tibi, Gal-on and Hanin.
Labor MK Yitzhak Herzog reacted to Yinon’s legal opinion saying it left serious questions unanswered regarding the leaking of non-security related information that is nonetheless classified. In a letter he penned on behalf of his party, Herzog said there was no dispute about the necessity to refrain from disclosing classified information, but argued that Yinon’s opinion could reduce MK immunity, which he said would be “a slippery and dangerous slope.”
Tibi said he was shocked Yinon’s legal opinion. He said he acted last week according to his fundamental immunity, and filled his Knesset role and didn’t violate any laws.
“I safeguarded the values of freedom, democracy and the fundamental rights of citizens,” Tibi said.