Democracy-building group gets visit from the police Israelis suspect ties to Palestinian authority

March 12, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- When the three men walked into the East Jerusalem office of the American-funded National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, director Sean Carroll thought to himself: Who are these guys?

He was surprised to learn they were plainclothes Jerusalem city police officers. They were trying to determine if the organization was tied to the Palestinian authority. Israel contends the self-ruled Palestinian entity has no authority to work in East Jerusalem. Last week, the government ordered closed four offices believed to be associated with the Palestinian authority. The offices are appealing the decision.

The police visit Monday to the Washington-based National Democratic Institute was the second by plainclothes officers. It prompted calls from U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and U.S. Consul General Edward G. Abington Jr. to police officials.

Earlier, Duncan MacInnes, the spokesman for the U.S. Consulate-General in Jerusalem, said the United States had asked for "clarification" from the Israelis.

"'We apparently received assurances that NDI was not going to be an issue with the authorities and they will not be bothered," MacInnes said later.

The organization, whose founding members include U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, promotes the development of democratic institutions in new governments. For the past year, the group has been working with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Carroll, the NDI chief in Jerusalem, said the policemen initially didn't identify themselves to staff members when they came to the office Feb. 27. "In the form of identification, or maybe in terms of intimidation, they showed their guns," he said.

The police peered into offices and spotted a commendation NDI had received from the local council in the Palestinian city of Jenin. They photocopied that and then left, Carroll said.

When the police returned Monday, Carroll said, one of the three showed him a police badge; the other two told him they were under no obligation to show him anything. Carroll said he explained NDI's program, showed them its newsletter and gave them a brochure about the organization.

"I showed them the door after I gave them the information," he said.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Rubi said the officers had received information during their first visit that the office operated "under the auspices of the Palestinian authority." And that's why they returned -- to verify the information.

Ben-Rubi said the officers identified themselves as police during both visits.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.