An Israeli intelligence officer who died in custody knowingly committed serious crimes, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said Wednesday, but said the army was taking his death very seriously.
The unnamed officer was arrested in September 2020 following an IDF investigation, indicted by Military Prosecution and remanded in custody until the end of legal proceedings against him. He was found dead in his cell in May. His name and the nature of his alleged offenses are still under gag order.
"He was an excellent officer and I am very saddened by the entire episode," Kochavi said at a memorial to late IDF chief and MK Amnon Lipkin-Shahak in Tel Aviv.
"Either way he should not have died in prison and his death must be investigated thoroughly," Kochavi said in his first public remarks on the matter.
"This is an example of the need to protect Israel's security and its secrets while also protecting our soldiers and treating them fairly. We will uphold our national security by protecting our secrets while also searching for the truth," he said.
Kochavi said he could not explain the actions of the officer, whom he said had been on the verge of revealing Israeli security secrets.
The military said Monday that the officer "acted independently out of personal interests rather than ideological, nationalist or economic motives," and was not suspected of espionage.
"The officer was in contact with his family throughout his internment as well as with other prisoners in the facility," Kochavi said Wednesday.
"We did everything we could to protect his privacy and that of his family, but also tried to keep secret the fact that he was about to compromise Israel's security," he said.
The officer's family said in a statement released by their attorney that they respected the chief of staff but insisted that the IDF had failed in its duty to preserve human lives in a secure military facility.
"The family demands a thorough and transparent investigation," the lawyer said.