Plot alleged in death of Rabin 2 more men arrested

arms cache is found near assassin's home

5 Jews held, others sought

Amir may have asked for permission to kill under religious law

November 10, 1995|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,SUN FOREIGN STAFF Sun special correspondent Joshua Brilliant contributed to this article.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Investigators searching for a conspiracy behind the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin widened their net yesterday, rounding up two more suspects and saying that they had "found weapons in a quantity which would not disgrace a terror group" buried near the home of his confessed killer, Yigal Amir.

With five suspects now in custody, yesterday's disclosures seemed to belie Mr. Amir's assertion that he had acted alone, although the government has yet to back its conspiracy theory with formal charges.

Law enforcement authorities already have offered enough information to feed a growing national concern over how entrenched extreme right-wing groups have become, what actions the groups might take, and how difficult they'll be to control without curbing important democratic rights.

The arrested men are joined by common threads. At least three have attended Bar-Ilan University, a private religious university near Tel Aviv. All are known to be vehemently opposed to the government's land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians. And at least three are said to be members of Eyal, a fringe right-wing organization whose name is a Hebrew acronym for "Fighting Jewish Organization."

"We believe there was a conspiracy between a group of persons who had the infrastructure and prepared their aims quite cautiously," Moshe Shahal, the police minister, said yesterday.

Authorities have kept to themselves any further evidence linking the men, particularly any details that would connect them in the planning or carrying out of the assassination of Mr. Rabin in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Mr. Amir, a 25-year-old law student, has said that he acted alone. His 27-year-old brother Hagai, who also has been arrested, has admitted handcrafting bullets used in the shooting into dumdums, which expand, inflicting large, jagged wounds.

Avishai Raviv, head of the Eyal group, was arrested Wednesday. He has denied any involvement in the assassination of Mr. Rabin, saying only that he had heard Mr. Amir mention a possible attack but hadn't taken the threat seriously.

Arrested yesterday were Dror Adani, 26, and Ohad Skornick, 23. Police representative Nissim Daudi testified in Magistrate's Court Tel Aviv that Mr. Adani was "an active partner to the planning," and said the police have "a statement in which [Yigal Amir] fully connects" him to the crime.

Police said little about Mr. Skornick except that he also is linked to the crime.

The five suspects are being held without bail, but none has been charged. Under Israeli law they can be detained without charges for up to 90 days, longer if the Supreme Court approves. They can be denied a meeting with their attorney (as has happened in Yigal Amir's case) for up to 30 days if warranted by reasons of "state security."

A sixth man has been questioned in the case.

Police said they have obtained most of their leads by questioning Mr. Amir's friends, family and acquaintances. But one clue -- an arms cache found buried in the yard of a nursery school run by Mr. Amir's mother, next door to the Amir family home -- has led them to suspect a conspiracy. Authorities said the arms included hand grenades, demolition charges and timing devices.

Mr. Shahal said police are seeking others with connections to Mr. Amir, and that the suspects could include radical rabbis. Police say they believe that Mr. Amir might have sought an advance sanction for the murder under religious law, a suspicion raised by Mr. Amir's statement in court that he killed Mr. Rabin "to save lives." That and self-defense are exceptions in Jewish law to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."

Mr. Raviv, the head of Eyal, testified Wednesday that, "The rumor is that there is a self-defense edict against Rabin, and according to Jewish law, that means a death edict."

The possibility thrusts the case further into the nether world of Israel's radical right, where modern anti-government invective is interwoven with ancient religious laws and decrees. And the Eyal group shows how little the government knows about the smaller elements of this world.

Eyal is an obscure group probably no older than 4 years and no larger than about a dozen members, said Ehud Sprinzak, a professor at Hebrew University and Israel's leading expert on radical right-wing organizations.

Eyal was a spinoff from organizations founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, the American Jewish extremist killed in 1990 who was dedicated to expelling all Arabs from Israel. But such organizations and their names and affiliations are always changing.

"The names of the organizations are not very important," said Mr. Sprinzak. "If it is indeed found that the assassination is the result of a conspiracy, then one [participant] may end up being from Kahane Chai [Kahane Lives], another from Eyal, another from one settlement and another from a different settlement."

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