Israel’s Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), a top secret organisation tasked with developing treatments to protect Israelis from chemical or biological weapons, but often accused of developing weapons of its own, risks exposure due to a lawsuit from a disgruntled former employee.Avisha Klein, who was once a rising star at the IIBR in Nes Tziona, has filed a 2.5 million Shekel suit against the institute, its director Dr. Avigdor Shafferman, and the director of security at the defence Ministry, according to Yossi Melman at Haaretz.
The plaintiff began working at the institute in 1982 and rapidly climbed the ranks. He worked as the co-coordinator of the live animal department and was part of a team that developed an ointment to protect skin against mustard gas. His troubles began in 1998. Klein’s lawsuit alleges that he was harassed and emotionally abused for years. Haaretz reports:
In his suit, Klein notes that he requested and received permission to serve as a consultant on raising monkeys for export for a private farm on Kibbutz Urim in the Negev. In the end, the project never got off the ground because of organizational opposition to experimenting on and abusing animals. At the time, Klein’s superiors at the institute said that he had never received permission to be part of the project and that he had forged the permits. It was then that a senior official of the security branch of the defence Ministry, Humi Even Tali (currently director of the special assignments branch ) launched a criminal investigation into Klein’s activities.
In the wake of the investigation, Klein was suspended and Shafferman instructed him to “move to an abandoned and rickety shed filled with mice and rats which had formerly served as a storeroom,” according to the suit. Klein spent three idle years in the shed, during which time he received his salary. Afterward, he took a short, approved sabbatical in the United States and then a two-year vacation without pay. Upon returning to Israel in 2003, he discovered to his astonishment that the institute had no intention of providing him with any position.
…Klein continued to show up for work at the institute for five more years, during which time he remained completely idle. Nonetheless, the institute did not dare to fire him and continued to pay his salary.
In 2008, a new investigation was opened by the institute ‘s security officer, Nissan Poran, and defence Ministry interrogators – this time on suspicion that Klein had leaked information, which eventually found its way to Haaretz. The investigators confiscated Klein’s home computer, which he said belonged to his wife. The next day, Poran issued a statement to all institute employees that was meant to denigrate and humiliate Klein. His employee identification tag was confiscated, and he was banned from the premises.
Shafferman, the director of the institute has had several complaints filed against him but investigations have consistently cleared his name. The most talked about controversy deals with his handling of the anthrax vaccine.
Klein’s lawsuit marks the first time that such claims will be argued publicly in court. It is unclear how damaging this will be for the institute. It was revealed that a 1992 cargo plane crash in Amsterdam was carrying a component of nerve gas for IIBR. The institute continues to be accused of developing chemical and biological weapons.
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