A look at page 241 of Judge Yoel Tsur's verdict in the Tzachi Hanegbi case is very worthwhile. It describes the way a witness, Michael Keshet, was brought in for questioning. Keshet is the editor of the publication Merkaz Ha'inyanim, which published the ad about which Hanegbi was to testify before the chairman of the Central Election Committee, leading to his conviction, by a majority of the bench, for perjury.
The quote from the witness' testimony speaks for itself. The serious questions it raises cannot be resolved by the claim that Tsur is the one who, in a minority opinion, acquitted Hanegbi also of perjury. The witness' comments describe what the judge called a sort of "kidnapping." This is what the witness said about the events of that bitter and rushed morning:
"I leave my house at 7:45 A.M.... On the way to work, and enter the industrial zone where the factory is. On one of the streets are two vehicles, one in front and one in the back, blocking my way and motioning me to pull over... Four tough guys get out and tell me to come with them. I said, 'Excuse me, you've made a mistake, I haven't done anything ... go ahead and check'... They tell me, 'Sir, we're not asking you, either you come with us nicely or we'll arrest you.'"
The judge wrote that the way the witness was brought in for questioning "like the lowest of criminals" should be scrutinized "with a magnifying glass." The man was not even allowed to call home and say he would not be arriving at the meetings planned for that day. Furthermore, the prosecution involved in overseeing this case did not claim that what the witness said during questioning was false.
Even if we assume the prosecution was not aware of the actual methods used in the questioning, one cannot ignore what the witness said in court - under the admonition to tell the truth. The attorney general, who heads the general prosecution and represents the public interest, should launch an investigation into the incident and the failures of the investigation in the case, which the court pointed out - both of the police and of the prosecution's "oversight."
Speaking on behalf of the latter, Jerusalem District prosecutor Eli Abarbanel quickly announced, even before studying the 1,000-word verdict, that it would "seriously" consider appealing, in light of Hanegbi's acquittal on the charge of improper political appointments. The majority opinion on that charge stems from Judge Tsur's acquittal do to the specific circumstances at hand, and from the dismissal of that charge by Judge Aryeh Romanoff. The latter based his decision on the argument that the court was given the authority to annul a charge if it, or if overall management of the case, contradicted the principles of justice or of judicial fairness in any way.
The district prosecutor was furious over the annulment of the charge based on that defense - which in Hanegbi's case has to do with a lack of "advance warning" concerning the criminal nature of said appointments.
According to Abarbanel, that defense is not valid when it comes to appointing 70 people "in the smallest ministry."
It should be recalled that the concept of defense of an accused person based on justice and fairness was voted into law in May 2007 in the context of criticism of the way the police and prosecution were handling various investigations and lawsuits. The law was spearheaded by MK Gideon Sa'ar following recognition in principle of the defense in a ruling of the Supreme Court, extensive academic publications and the work of the forum for criminal law in the Israel Bar Association, headed by Rachel Toren. The Knesset passed an expanded version of this clause, beyond what the High Court of Justice had ruled and in opposition to the prosecution's position.
It is not hard to understand why the prosecution, which opposes any outside oversight of its actions, opposes implementation of defense based on justice, even when it comes to political appointments - which is not a serious charge and was brought before the courts for the first time. There is no specific legal prohibition against making such appointments; rather the prohibition rests on interpretation of the sweeping charge of "breach of trust."
Before a hasty decision is made to appeal, which will almost certainly lead to split verdicts in the district court, the prosecution would do well to study its actions in the Hanegbi case and its methods of investigation.
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