The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ruled this week that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador should not be granted immunity for remarks he made in a newspaper interview over which he is being sued for libel.
Judge Riva Niv had harsh words for Lador for expressing opinions in an interview with Haaretz on a case still before the court - the trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on bribery charges in the Holyland affair.
Lador requested that he be granted immunity from prosecution as a public servant.
"The statements by the state prosecutor in the interview are perceived by the public as if they have been checked by the senior official in the Justice Ministry who is expressing his opinion about facts not in evidence before the court," Niv wrote.
Olmert, who is suing both Lador and Haaretz, claims that Lador libeled him and made improper remarks considering that the legal proceedings against Olmert were still underway and the investigation had not yet been completed at the time.
Lador's original request that the case be thrown out was rejected, but the state also requested that Lador be granted immunity to protect him from the suit.
Olmert claims that Lador libeled him in calling the transfer of money to Olmert from his friend Yosef Elmaliah, "unusually scandalous," adding that "the loan has not been repaid to this day."
After the interview was published, Olmert said the money had been repaid and demanded an apology from Lador and Haaretz.
Olmert argued that the interview with Lador was not part of his official function, and in fact contradicts it.
However Lador claimed that giving interviews on significant public issues is an inseperable part of his work and stems from the principle of the public's right to know.
Niv noted that one of the reasons for the lawsuit against Lador was a violation of a legal obligation: Lador contravened the principle of sub judice in the interview.
"How is it conceivable that the defendant, as the guardian of the threshold of propriety of the judicial processes of the state, will be protected from it by immunity?" Niv wrote.
The Justice Ministry said yesterday that it intended to request permission to appeal Niv's decision in the District Court.
The Justice Ministry also responded that in keeping with the law on damages a public servant cannot be directly sued for actions carried out in the fulfillment of his official role.
The ministry also noted that assistant attorney general Sarit Dana issued a decision that Lador has immunity in giving the interview because of the right of the public to know about matters under the state prosecutor's purview.
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