Former Shin Bet chief leaves Denmark early in wake of torture accusations

Former director of Israel’s security service decides against film festival appearance following complaint filed by a pro-Palestinian group

Carmi Gillon, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, left Denmark Saturday afternoon after the Danish Anti-Torture Support Foundation (ATSF) filed a complaint with the Copenhagen Police accusing him of torture.

His hasty departure meant that Gillon did not make his planned appearance at the Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival for a showing of the documentary ‘The Gatekeepers’, which features Gillon and five other former Shin Bet leaders. Gillon's departure also meant that he did not deliver a scheduled lecture.

Gillon, who headed the Shin Bet in the mid-1990s, had first told Kristeligt-Dagblad newspaper that he would make the festival despite the charges. He then decided not to take any chances and left before his scheduled appearance. He told the newspaper that he was “shocked” by the complaint and called the accusations “old.”

Gillon, who also served as Israel's ambassador to Denmark from 2001 to 2003, was invited to take part in the festival to talk about the documentary in which he and five other former heads of Israel's internal security organisation talk about Israel's activities in the West Bank.

Torture or 'physical pressure'?
When Gillon was appointed to serve as the Israeli ambassador to Denmark, he stated that it was sometimes acceptable and necessary to use moderate physical pressure during interrogation.  A police complaint was filed against Gillon at that time, but was rejected due to his diplomatic immunity.

Human rights organisations have criticised Gillon’s actions as head of Shin Bet, saying that methods of interrogation which amounted to torture were used against several hundred Palestinian detainees each year.

Dr Inge Genefke, one of the ATSF members who reported Gillon to the police, was glad that he did not appear at the festival but sorry that he did not remain in Denmark long enough to face the charges against him.

“Gillon has been responsible for the torture of many people and that is why he ran away,” Genefke told Berlingske newspaper. “I am proud that he ran away, but the perfect result would have been that he stayed and was prosecuted. But he would not take that risk.”

Gillon has previously denied the torture charges and told Kristeligt-Dagblad that he has never been personally responsible for torture.

“Danish ignorance”
Anne Boukris, the head of the Jewish Film Festival, was outraged at the treatment Gillon received in Denmark, saying that he has travelled around the world with the film without incident before. She said Gillon is actively working for reconciliation and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I know from my involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jewish Film Festival and my many years of collaboration with the Israeli Embassy that Gillon is one of those people who Palestinians trust,” Boukris told Berlingske.

Boukris called Gillon’s treatment in Denmark a “disgrace” and an example of “Danish ignorance at its worst”.

She said that any accusations of torture against Gillon needed to be measured against the security situation in Israel at the time he headed up Shin Bet.

“If you had knowledge that a kindergarten was going to be attacked somewhere, would people like Genefke just sit and let it happen?”

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Gillon explained his hasty departure in an open letter to festival participants:

“Personally, I have seen myself as an ambassador of peace for many years. But unfortunately, someone in Denmark decided that I should not be in the country and has asked the police to arrest me. After difficult deliberations and consultations with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, I have decided to leave your beautiful country on Saturday morning.”

The Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” is scheduled to be shown six times in January at Cinematheque in Copenhagen.