Netanyahu, Barak and Yishai Won't Face Criminal Probe Over Carmel Fire

Family members of a victim of the devastating Carmel fire had called for a criminal investigation of government ministers for negligence.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein rejected on Monday the demand to investigate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Interior Minister Eli Yishai over negligence during the devastating Carmel fire, saying the discussion regarding their conduct does not belong in court but rather in the public domain.

Two weeks ago, family members of a victim of the devastating Carmel fire demanded that senior members of the Israeli government, including the prime minister, face a criminal investigation for negligence.

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Ze'ev Even Chen, a retired major general in the Israel Police, who lost his daughter Topaz Even Chen Klein in the fire, and her father-in law, Haim Klein, said that Netanyahu, Yishai, Barak and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz should be investigated for criminal negligence in dealing with the fire, which led to the deaths of 44 people.

Weinstein said on Monday he did not believe that there was a legal basis that justifies a criminal investigation into the matter, and added that the discussion regarding the failures to control the fire due to lacking resources could be dealt with in the Knesset, in a parliamentary inquiry committee or a governmental investigation committee, and not in a court of law.

Weinstein added that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was examining the various aspects of the disaster and if he found reason to suspect any criminal action in case, he would transfer the information to him for further examination.

Even Chen and Klein supported their claim of criminal negligence by pointing to a report by Lindenstrauss which was published several weeks ago. In the report, released ahead of its scheduled time, Lindenstrauss defined the situation of the fire department as a continuous and serious failure, which could destroy the lives nd property of many people.

The report placed the bulk of the blame on Yishai, as well as Steinitz and Barak, and stated that they must immediately reverse the neglect.

The two family members demanded that justice be served, saying that if those responsible for the fire were not held accountable, there would be additional losses of life.