Woman faces treason trial after allegedly leaking documents that suggest military breached court order on West Bank assassinations
An Israeli journalist has been under secret house arrest since December on charges that she leaked highly sensitive, classified military documents that suggest the Israeli military breached a court order on assassinations in the occupied West Bank.
Anat Kam, 23, goes on trial in two weeks on treason and espionage charges and could face up to 14 years in jail. A court-imposed gagging order, proposed by the state and more recently by the defence, is preventing media coverage of the arrest and charges in Israel.
Kam is reportedly accused of copying military documents while she was a soldier on national service and then passing them to an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Kam denies the charges. Her lawyers declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.
A Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau, who has written several stories critical of the Israeli military and who has been linked in internet reports to the case, has left Israel and is now in London, apparently for fear he will be targeted for his reporting. Haaretz and Channel 10, an Israeli television station, will challenge the media gagging order at a hearing on 12 April, two days before Kam's trial is due to start at the Tel Aviv district court.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which reported the story from New York this week, said the investigation into Kam was jointly conducted by Israeli military intelligence, the police and the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service. The Israeli military declined to comment on the case.
During her military service, Kam reportedly worked in the office of a senior Israeli general and is accused of copying classified documents from the office. After her time in the army she became a journalist, working for the Israeli news website Walla, which was previously partly owned by Haaretz but entirely editorially independent. Reports suggest she is accused of leaking the documents to Haaretz.
Attention has focused on an investigation Haaretz published on the Israeli military's assassination policy in November 2008, written by Uri Blau and headlined "Licence to Kill". He reported that the military, the Israel Defence Force, had been carrying out assassinations of Palestinian militants in the West Bank in contravention of an Israeli high court ruling, which said efforts should be made first to arrest suspected militants rather than assassinating them.
The story described meetings in the spring of 2007 in which senior Israeli generals discussed a mission to assassinate Ziad Subahi Mahmad Malaisha, a senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The army chief, General Gabi Ashkenazi, allegedly approved the operation but said Malaisha's car was not to be attacked if there was "more than one unidentified passenger" in it.
Malaisha and another Islamic Jihad leader were killed by the military in June that year, and the military claimed at the time that the militants had first opened fire at the soldiers.
One of the generals involved in the meetings, Major-General Yair Naveh, was quoted in the story as defending the killings as legal. The AP reported that Kam served in Naveh's office during her military service.
The Haaretz piece was accompanied by copies of military documents but it was approved by the military censor before publication, the Guardian understands. The story was published more than a year before Kam was arrested and was followed by several other articles by Blau that were similarly critical of the military.
Dov Alfon, editor of Haaretz, said: "Uri Blau is in London. He will be there until his editors decide otherwise. We are ready to continue to keep him in London as long as needed. Uri Blau published a lot of articles in Haaretz. All of them are dynamite stuff and it is clear of course that the authorities are not satisfied with these kind of revelations in a major newspaper.
"We understand this but we also understand that Israel is still a democracy and therefore we intend to continue to publish whatever public interest demands and our reporters can reveal."