Police ducked for cover over Israeli

By David Eames

Police all but ignored a warrant to arrest a visiting former Israeli general a judge had ruled could be charged with war crimes, court papers show.

Instead, officers waited for their own legal advice, which saw the orders cancelled.

District court judge Avinash Deobhakta on Monday issued two arrest warrants for former Israeli Defence Force chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon after deciding the 55-year-old had a prima facie case to answer, under the Geneva Convention, for his part in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeb in Gaza in 2002. A one-tonne bomb was dropped on Shehadeb's house, killing 22 others.

The court papers said General Ya'alon later admitted his part in planning the assassination and was, therefore, a party to the bombing.

Electronic copies of the warrants were forwarded by lawyer Davey Salmon to Detective Inspector Bruce Good, in Auckland, at 1.07pm that day.

But the court papers show that almost 24 hours after the warrant was issued, nothing had happened, although police knew exactly where the general was and were possibly even keeping him under surveillance.

The court papers show Mr Good at one stage told Mr Salmon police needed hard copies of the warrants before executing them, but then refused an offer to have the papers delivered to him, saying he would prefer to pick them up at an "appropriate stage".

Mr Salmon later received a call from Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall, who said police would not be executing the warrants until told to by the Solicitor-General.

Mr Marshall's call came about two hours before Attorney-General Michael Cullen's office had even seen evidence in support of the warrants, and six hours before Dr Cullen officially quashed them.

Mr Good yesterday confirmed to the Weekend Herald he had sought legal advice on whether the warrants could legally be enforced. The unusual nature of the warrants meant the matter was passed to Crown Law and then the Attorney-General's office.

Agents for the Attorney-General asked to see the evidence against General Ya'alon. It was flown to Wellington and hand-delivered at 1.10pm on Tuesday.

At 3pm, counsel for the Attorney-General indicated a stay of prosecution was imminent, despite assurances by Mr Salmon's clients that further supporting evidence was being assembled.

The warrants were officially quashed about 5pm. Had they still been active two hours later, when General Ya'alon spoke at a meeting at Kadimah College in central Auckland, he could have ended up in handcuffs. He has since left New Zealand.

A statement from Dr Cullen's office yesterday said Judge Deobhakta was "unwittingly acting without jurisdiction".

Dr Cullen later told the Weekend Herald the original arrest warrant ruling was wrong as the process followed by those bringing the charges was "invalid".

Mr Salmon said his client was "considering further avenues".

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