Test on blood of officer who died in military prison gives indefinitive results

Army says not clear whether intel officer died of drug overdose; family says results show he did not kill himself

The grave of an IDF officer who died in jail under unclear circumstances. (Screen grab/Kan)
The grave of an IDF officer who died in jail under unclear circumstances. (Screen grab/Kan)

A test conducted on the blood of a jailed intelligence officer who died under mysterious circumstances in May did not provide a definitive answer on whether he died by suicide.

The military said on Friday that tests conducted by a United States lab had not given a clear answer on whether he had overdosed on one of two drugs he was taking, which were reported to be antidepressant and anti-psychotic medicines.

“The results show that the concentration of one of the drugs is within the parameters expected as a result of regular dosage. The concentration test for the second drug did not succeed.”

The army noted that “such results occur from time to time” as the test is a complex one.

It said that the results were sent to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv and that the family had been notified.

The family of the officer said in a statement: “From the very first moment we said he did not kill himself, and that other circumstance caused his tragic death. The partial toxin results received thus far show no overdose of drugs in his blood, and strengthens our assessment that our son did not take his own life.”

The family is intensifying calls for the military to recognize the officer as a fallen soldier. The officer did not receive a military burial as he had already been released from service while under arrest.

The officer was in a military prison at the time of his death, as he was charged with severe national security offenses, the precise nature of which is censored, along with his identity. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said that the officer had nearly caused damage to a state secret, but the damage was prevented at the last minute.

Benny Kuznitz, attorney for the family of a Military Intelligence officer who died in custody last month, speaks to reporters before a hearing in a military court in IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on June 7, 2021. (Flash90)

The military has said that the officer worked alone and did not act on behalf of a foreign government or for financial gain or out of ideology, but out of unspecified “personal motivations.” Military prosecutors had been considering seeking a 10-year sentence for the officer, according to reports.

The officer was arrested last year and indicted in September. He had not yet been convicted, but was being held in prison while his attorneys and military prosecutors were negotiating a potential plea deal. On the night of May 16, he was found in serious condition in his cell and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Though an autopsy was performed — with a doctor, on behalf of the family present — no official cause of death has yet been determined, according to the IDF, though military officials had indicated it appeared to be a suicide.

At a service in June, a month after his death, his father said: “Our child was murdered, and from time to time his good name is also murdered with trending leaks when nothing has been proven at trial.”

He expressed anger at “an army that received a healthy soldier who devoted himself to the unit, from dawn until late at night, and under unclear circumstances committed unexplained actions,” the father said on Friday.

Judah Ari Gross and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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