קרוב משפחתו של סרן תומר אייגס, על נסיבות מות הקצין בכלא הצבאי: ברור לי שבוצע פשע
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Over the past few days, I broke the story of AMAN cyber-intelligence analyst, Capt. Tomer Eiges, age 25, who died in a military prison last month. The Shin Bet arrested and charged him secretly, according to the security source I consulted, with espionage.
After I published my first story on the case, Israeli media began to clamor for the military censor to release more details for publication. Until I published his name, the media could only report the barest details of the case.
The family has also taken issue with the claim that he committed suicide in his prison cell. Today, a military appeals court permitted publication of details stating that Eiges had not been charged with espionage or treason and that he had not been spying for a foreign country.
If that’s so, then why is Eiges buried in the civilian portion of the cemetery? It is customary for army veterans to be buried with their military comrades. Apparently, the army prohibited Eiges’ from being buried in the military section of the cemetery where he was buried. Why?
My source responded to this court release with the following:
“I dare the military court to release the full – and I mean full! – charge sheet and court sessions protocols.”
A Source Close to the Family
I’ve learned from a source familiar with the family that Eiges joined the IDF and did his regular service in Unit 8200, the famed SIGINT branch. When he completed his regular service he enlisted as a career officer in AMAN.
The woman (source) also said that when Eiges was arrested, ten IDF officers came to the parent’s home in the middle of the night and made them sign a form committing to remain silent about his arrest. They agreed to do so. They didn’t even tell their daughters (Eiges’ sisters) about his arrest for months afterward. In fact, the father works for a major Israeli military contractor and could have used his contacts to lobby on behalf of his son. But he honored his written commitment. The only visits Eiges were permitted were once a week 20-minute meetings with his family.
The IDF would not permit Eiges to hire his own lawyer, so a military defense lawyer represented him. Originally there were 36 charges filed against him. But a military judge urged the parties to enter mediation. As a result the charges were whittled down to 18.
This source also revealed other aspects of the case including the fact that a prison psychiatrist had prescribed Eiges anti-depressants because he suffered from depression due to his imprisonment. After their son’s death, the parents hired a pathologist who performed an autopsy. He could find no physical cause of death and ruled out strangulation, heart attack and other causes. He sent a toxicology blood panel for analysis, but the results are not yet known.
She also revealed that Eiges had requested that he be housed with other officers in the prison, but the authorities refused, telling him that this would prevent them from monitoring his cell.
News reports today do reveal that he had been indicted, but that he had not been put on trial. It’s customary in such national security cases if there is a trial, for it be in secret as well. But the State far prefers for defendants to take a plea deal so that it does not expose, even accidentally, any State secrets or intelligence methods. This may be why Eiges, like Ben Zygier before him, were held for months without trial, a form of abuse in its own right. Such isolation and long intervals of uncertainty can easily unbalance the minds of such prisoners. Though I have no idea whether that is what happened in Eiges’ case.
Another source with knowledge of the circumstances contacted me after I published my story. This is a slightly edited excerpt of his account of the Tomer he knew:
I knew Tomer first as a toddler. As I lived abroad for years, my main contact was…with his parents The second time I associated with him, was two years ago, following the death of his aunt.
As a young man, Tomer was outstandingly noble, warm in a quiet way, clearly into family. I was updated often about his incredible gifts and astounding young achievements. In person, one wouldn’t guess [at them]. The humility… He helped my elderly mom, teaching her basic uses of the computer and other devices.
While I am very grateful for your excellent post, delivering [his] name [and] a handsome precious face to the world, the ‘suicide conclusion’ is very questionable and should not be used freely. The first publication in the media noting that word, made little sense. It is clear to me a crime took place. It is significantly more than an embarrassment that’s [been] laundered…The investigation has only addressed the prison’s role [in his death]. Far from where his fate was determined.
Any thinking person would recognize there is no real investigation. Out of commitment to his parents and their sovereignty, & frankly out of not knowing beyond the current impossible blur [of events] , there’s little i could add. I do take the liberty though to express my anger about his rushed burial on May 19th.
The belief by a close relative that the burial of the victim was “rushed” raises a red flag. Given that Eiges died under mysterious circumstances, this would ordinarily demand an autopsy be performed. When one is done, the family is permitted to appoint its own pathologist to join the state coroner in examining the body. Given his burial only two days after his death, it would appear an autopsy was not done. Or if it was, it would have been performed in a hasty manner.
As the family member notes above, the only aspect of the case investigated was the performance of the prison personnel. How did the prisoner die? If he killed himself, how could he have done so given the CCTV surveillance that would be demanded in a case like this?
Though the family and court have denied Eiges was charged with espionage, why was he held secretly in prison for nine months before his death? Why won’t the State say anything about what it suspected him of doing? Though my source did say he was charged with espionage, he refused to expand upon the nature of his alleged crime.
Eiges’ parents are understandably indignant with the media coverage of their son’s death. They reject out of hand that he would engage in espionage or take his own life. The problem with Israel being a State which maintains opacity concerning matters such as this is that neither the parents nor the public can know what they need to in order to determine what really happened. This is a cruel way for the nation to treat the bereaved. Not only has the State played a role in the death of their child, it refuses to reveal anything substantive about what he did or what happened to him. This sort of secrecy is corrosive not only of democracy, but of human lives.
NOTE: I want to thank the Israelis who were sources and messengers in researching and reporting this story; and also those who posted comments naming Tomer with links to these posts at Haaretz. Unfortunately, it seems to have deleted them in service to the Almighty Censor. Keep up the fight. We will win.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.