Netanyahu aide skips UK trip fearing arrest

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to London on Wednesday without his military attache, who fears arrest there for war crimes.

A senior Israeli political source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu raised the issue at his Wednesday evening meeting with British premier David Cameron at his Downing Street headquarters.

Yohanan Locker chose to stay behind in Israel rather than expose himself to the risk of possible prosecution because of his role in "Operation Cast Lead", the devastating military offensive on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.

British law allows a judge, if a case is brought by a plaintiff, to issue an arrest warrant against a foreigner entering the country if the judge has grounds to believe that person may have been involved in crimes against humanity, even if they were not committed on British territory.

The judge is not required to submit his decision to the attorney general for approval.

Palestinian groups have used this legislation to accuse Israeli political and military leaders of war crimes in British courts.

Such legal threats have prompted various Israelis to cancel trips to London, notably Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in 2009.

The British government has since submitted to parliament an amendment to the legislation requiring such warrants to be approved by the director of public prosecution. The amendment is yet to be passed into law.

The Israeli source, speaking in London to journalists travelling with Netanyahu, said that Cameron told his visitor that the change was at an advanced stage and should be completed shortly.

© 2011 AFP

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