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By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
An Israeli colonel involved in Operation Cast Lead returned to Israel in haste on Friday, fearing arrest on charges of war crimes during a visit to the UK. Col. (res.) Geva Rapp had arrived in London three days before for appearances in which he was to explain Israel's position and refute media representations of the hostilities.
His trip had been cleared by Israeli security services. On Thursday night, after news of his visit reached pro-Palestinian groups, some 80 protesters demonstrated outside the offices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) in central London, where Rapp was scheduled to speak.
Calling for police to arrest him, the protesters blocked public pathways, while one scaled the building's walls. Police made several arrests. The event was cancelled and the decision was made for Rapp to return to Israel out of fear of a universal jurisdiction arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.
After a Miami couple jumped bond in late December to avoid a trial on charges they were involved with a multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme, the local prosecutor told reporters that he is afraid Israelis will "abuse that protection in Israel" by using the Jewish state as a "safe haven."
Prosecutors say the Israelis are gambling that U.S. law-enforcement officials will not have the resources or motivation to pursue cases in Israel. Prosecutors are quick to point out that many Israelis accused of crimes in the United States do not flee. But a State Department official said local district attorneys have contacted its legal department to discuss the problem
He is one of dozens of people in Lithuania, Russia and Israel that the Lithuanians want to bring to trial on charges relating to crimes during the Soviet rule. But Israel has refused to extradite 82-year-old Dushanski, claiming that Lithuania had not prosecuted similar criminals living in the country. The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre last night backed Israel’s stance, saying that the Lithuanian request looked like the country was discriminating against Jews.