British police 'failed' to arrest Israeli general: BBC

British police failed to arrest an Israeli general wanted for alleged war crimes because they feared an armed standoff at Heathrow airport, the BBC reported Tuesday.

British police 'failed' to arrest Israeli general: BBC
Major General Doron Almog was tipped off about plans to arrest him after he landed in London in September 2005 and refused to get off his plane, staying on board for two hours before returning to Israel.

Palestinian campaigners had lobbied police to arrest him when he travelled to Britain over allegations that he ordered the destruction of more than 50 homes in the Gaza Strip.

The general was travelling for Jewish social and charitable events, but was tipped off -- apparently via the Israeli embassy -- about an arrest warrant issued for him before he left the El Al plane on the tarmac at Heathrow.

Police initially decided they were going to detain the general at Heathrow's immigration control, then take him to a police station before deciding whether to formally arrest him, according to a police log obtained by the BBC.

But faced with the general refusing to leave the plane, the officer in charge John MacBrayne -- who more recently flew to Pakistan to probe the death of Benazir Bhutto -- could not get confirmation that he could board the flight.

Writing in the log, MacBrayne noted with concern the "consideration (was) that El Al flights carried armed air marshals, which raised issues around public safety.

"There was also no intelligence as to whether Mr Almog would have been travelling with personal security as befitted his status, armed or otherwise," he added.

The police chief also voiced concern about the "international impact of a potentially armed police operation at an airport."

Aviation security expert Chris Yates said police are entitled to board planes, whatever nationality the airline. "Any aircraft of any nationality is not sovereign soil," he told BBC radio.

"If the police... feel that a crime has been committed or that they have to execute a warrant for someone's arrest, then they're quite within their rights to board that aircraft with or without the permission of the pilot."

When the general returned to Israel the incident was described as an "outrage" by foreign minister Silvan Shalom. Then British foreign secretary Jack Straw subsequently apologised, the BBC reported.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Şubat 2008, 14:57
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