By Jack Khoury
The Military Police interrogation of a key suspect in the killing of American human rights activist Rachel Corrie was cut short by a direct order of then GOC Southern, Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, army documents obtained by Haaretz suggest.
The documents come from the Military Police investigation file and were submitted as evidence to the Haifa District Court when a member of the MP investigation team testified in court during the civil lawsuit case Corrie’s family has brought against the State of Israel.
The Corries’ attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, confronted the former investigator with a protocol of his questioning of the commander of the D9 Caterpillar bulldozer that drove over the activist. The officer’s record states his interrogation of the bulldozer commander came to an unusual end. “It’s now 18:12. Maj (res.) K entered the interrogation room and told the witness he must not say anything or write anything, by a direct order from GOC Southern Command. I confirm this occurred and I sign this in my hand,” the officer wrote, adding his signature. There the interrogation concluded.
Prior to the intervention the soldier was describing the moment he understood Rachel Corrie had been hurt, insisting he could not see her from the driver’s cabin.
Although the bulldozer commander later gave further testimony, Abu Hussein said the Corrie family took the interference of such a senior officer very seriously. “This makes it absolutely clear there was at least an attempt, no matter how effective, to intervene in the investigation,” he told Haaretz. “The documents proves it, black on white, that there was an attempt to prevent the bulldozer driver from giving a full testimony on the circumstances in which the deceased was killed.”
Abu Hussein also said that this violated a promise by then prime minister Ariel Sharon to then American president George W. Bush to carry out a thorough, in-depth investigation.
Claims about attempts by Almog to influence the investigation were also made at a hearing in the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court on March 18, 2003. Military Police approached the court to obtain an autopsy order for Corrie’s body, to determine whether she was indeed crushed by the bulldozer or killed by hand-grenades soldiers were alleged to have thrown during the incident.
The court record states that one of the investigating officers said the Military Police had been delayed “by an argument between GOC Southern Command and the military advocate general about whether to investigate and on what charges.”
Corrie, 23, whose hometown is Olympia, Washington, was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003, while standing in front of a bulldozer that was demolishing structures along the Philadelphi route. The IDF claims the 65-ton bulldozer never touched Corrie, while eyewitnesses insist it crushed her deliberately.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog told Haaretz that he had no knowledge of the claims and no intention to comment. He said he had no idea what documents were in question or how reliable they were, as seven years have passed since the event. Almog noted that while he did not wish to discuss the details of this particular event, he had never covered up any investigation and a full internal investigation was carried out in his command at the time and submitted to the chief of staff. The IDF spokesperson was not available for comment.