FOI papers 'lost', say

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 22, 2010

Civil servants lost a Freedom of Information appeal which could shed light on a missing Israeli soldier.

The Foreign Office said it did not know what had happened to papers requesting a 1982 ambassador's report, which may have contained references to Zachary Baumel. It only said they had been passed to the Information Commissioner's Office. But an official there said: "The FO are dealing with it. It's not an ongoing case with us."

Now lawyers acting for the soldier's family have been asked by the FO to make a fresh appeal. But they fear the mix-up could be a delaying tactic.

Last week the JC reported that the FO had refused to reveal the report by the then British ambassador to Damascus, Ivor Lucas, claiming it would harm British relations with Syria. The documents are thought to contain an account of Baumel's capture.

In a statement, the FO said the report contained no such reference and that any suggestion that it was withholding a report was "misleading".

But Manchester lawyer Daniel Berke, said: "If it was genuinely lost, that's worrying, if it was deliberately lost that's deeply worrying. We don't know what has happened, but we will be submitting a fresh appeal."

Last updated: 1:44pm, December 22 2010