JERUSALEM (AP) _ The attorney general has ordered a criminal investigation into the death of a 23-year-old Palestinian during an interrogation by Shin Bet security service agents, a police spokeswoman said Friday.

National Police spokeswoman Ruth Shlezinger gave no further details, saying ''police can only confirm the order but will not discuss the investigation.''

The Shin Bet has already suspended three agents for allegedly lying to a judicial commission about the circumstances surrounding the death of Awad Hamdan, Israeli officials said.

The mass-circulation daily Yediot Ahronot said the agents were suspended after the head of Shin Bet, whose name is not released as a matter of security policy, discovered 10 days ago that they had lied.

The police probe will determine whether the agents will be put on trial, the national Itim news agency reported.

It said Attorney General Yosef Harish ordered the criminal investigation Thursday after completing an intensive initial probe into Hamdan's death.

Hamdan died in custody in July, two days after his arrest for allegedly belonging to an illegal organization. The charge is usually applied to members of the outlawed Palestine Liberation Organization and other Palestinian groups.

Yediot Ahronot said Wednesday that the three suspended agents submitted their version of Hamdan's interrogation to a judicial panel investigating Shin Bet's questioning methods and it contained ''inaccurate facts and even lies.''

The three-member panel, headed by Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau, issued a report this month saying Shin Bet agents routinely lied in court over the past 16 years about their use of force to obtain confessions.

Felicia Langer, a human rights lawyer who often represents Arabs charged with security offenses, urged the Landau panel to investigate the circumstances of Hamdan's death and the Supreme Court to order a criminal investigation.

Ms. Langer, who was hired by Hamdan's family, said she demanded an explanation of Hamdan's death after receiving ''evasive replies'' from Harish, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Police Minister Chaim Bar-Lev.

Israeli officials first claimed Hamdan died of a heart attack or was bitten by a snake, Langer stated, adding she had not received the autopsy report.

A pathological examination showed Hamdan died of pneumonia which he may have contracted during the interrogation, Yediot Ahronot said.

Palestinian suspects have often complained of being submitted to cold showers during Shin Bet interrogations.

Hamdan's family said they discovered torture marks on his body, Langer said Wednesday in an Israel Television interview.

She said marks of violence on Hamdan's body roused the family's suspicion ''because he had been a healthy, fine boy who was never sick ... an athlete, too.''

Hamdan's body showed signs of beating on the head, testicles and waist, said his brother, Jad, who picked up the body at the hospital.

Jad Hamdan said Shin Bet agents killed his brother.

''We demand that the members of the intelligence service ... be tried and punished for what they did,'' he told the Arab-owned Palestine Press Service.