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Israel upholds Lebanese militiaman's rape suit
20 Dec 2005 15:36:56 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV, Dec 20 (Reuters) - An Israeli court upheld on Tuesday the right of a former Lebanese militia chief to demand compensation for sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of interrogators while jailed in the Jewish state.

Mustafa Dirani, who was repatriated in January 2004 under a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah, said he was stripped and forcibly sodomised during his 10-year captivity. He is demanding $1.34 million in damages. Israeli prosecutors accused Dirani of concocting the charges to cover for his cooperation with the Jewish state's military officials, who ordered his abduction in the hope of determining the whereabouts of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad.

Arad has been missing since 1986, when he bailed out of his plane over Lebanon.

Tel Aviv District Court rejected the state's request to throw out the civil suit, filed in Dirani's absence by an Israeli lawyer. But it said that as Israel and Lebanon are technically at war, any money awarded should not be allowed to reach Dirani.

"There is no doubt that the complainant is a resident of an enemy state, and even 'in the employ of the enemy' as defined by regulations," said Judge Amiram Binyamini.

"Therefore it would not be possible to transfer monetary compensation to him if he wins his case ... But the regulations do not abrogate the right to file or conduct a suit on behalf of a resident of an enemy state."

Dirani has said an Israeli payout is not his aim.

"I haven't asked for money, it is the lawyer who did," he told Reuters in an interview in February. "I will clarify now that I am ready to give any money I get to humanitarian organisations and I don't want a penny of it."

"My main concern was revealing the truth and also so that others don't suffer what I have suffered and are not tortured the way I was tortured," he said

No date was set for the case to be heard.

Arad's family deplored the decision to free Dirani, saying it dealt a major blow to efforts to retrieve the airman alive. Beirut-based sources said in May that Arad was dead and his remains held by Hizbollah. The guerrilla group had no comment.

Israel denies its security services use torture. In 1996 the Supreme Court allowed "moderate physical pressure" -- including sleep deprivation and violent shaking of a subject -- in urgent counterterrorism cases, a ruling decried by human rights groups.

Security sources said Dirani was interrogated in Facility 1391, a secret jail in northern Israel reserved for top-priority foreign captives. The Supreme Court has indefinitely deferred a decision on calls by a rights group to shut down the facility.

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