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October 20, 2019 9:29 am

Meir Shamgar, Former Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, Dies at 94

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Former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar on May 19, 2011. Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90. – Former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar died on Oct. 18 at the age of 94.

Shamgar joined Israel’s highest court in 1975 and became chief justice eight years later. He retired in 1995.

He was known for his “firm stance” in favor of freedom of speech, according to a short biography released by the court.

Shamgar “had an important role in shaping the foundation of Israeli jurisprudence, including legal policy in Judea and Samaria,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement.

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His tenure on the high court consisted of overturning the conviction of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi guard at the Sobibor death camp, who was facing capital punishment for crimes against humanity as a Treblinka death camp guard, known as “Ivan the Terrible.” The reversal was based on new evidence that cast uncertainty over the identity of “Ivan the Terrible.”

He also led the committee that investigated the omissions revealed in the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Shamgar was born in Poland in 1925 and immigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1939.

Five years later, he was arrested by the British for his role in the Irgun and was sent to a prison in Eritrea, where he studied law through the University of London’s program. After his release, he completed studies in history and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1963, Shamgar was appointed by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, as chief judge advocate general.

Shamgar had three children with his wife Geula, who died in 1983. After her death, he married Michal Rubinstein, a retired judge who served as vice president of the Tel Aviv District Court.

“We mourn the loss of one of Israel’s greatest jurists who served as President of the Supreme Court for 12 of his 20 years as a justice,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in a statement. “He earned universal respect and admiration. He addressed the Conference of Presidents both in Israel and on his visits to the United States. We extend our condolences to his family.”

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