The Knesset's parliamentary inquiry committee on wiretaps urged Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann yesterday to launch a formal governmental inquiry into accusations that police concealed its wiretapping of a female soldier who accused then justice minister Haim Ramon of forcibly kissing her, thereby potentially undermining Ramon's defense.
The police tapped the soldier's phone and that of her commanding officer, but the prosecution initially denied the existence of the wiretaps. Ramon was convicted early last year of committing an indecent act.
In urging the establishment of a governmental inquiry panel, the parliamentary committee acceded to Friedmann's request for public support for the establishment of such a panel, which retired judge Vardi Zeiler had recommended in February after examining the issue at Friedmann's request.
"I am more and more convinced that there is no choice but to set up a governmental inquiry committee with powers, or else the issue will disappear," Friedmann told the committee. He accused Justice Ministry officials and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter of blocking a probe.
"It's very difficult to accept the uncompromising struggle waged by the entire legal system against the investigation," Friedmann said. "There is very strong opposition within the ministry. Don't touch, don't investigate. I met with Dichter after the Zeiler report [came out]. He told me he was not willing under any circumstances [to establish an inquiry committee]."
Yohanan Danino, who heads the police investigation and intelligence department, has sharply criticized the idea of establishing an inquiry committee, saying Zeiler's conclusions range from "strange to unfounded." He was referring, inter alia, to Zeiler's contention that Danino met with the complainant at a cafe and tried to convince her to testify against Ramon, and that the wiretaps violated the police's own orders.
Ramon's attorneys complained that their case was damaged because police did not inform them promptly of the wiretaps, which might have bolstered his defense. Questions have also been raised about whether there was any justification for ordering the wiretaps.
"Everyone who was involved thinks that terrible things were done," Zeiler told the committee yesterday. "We need to conduct an investigation and finish with the case."
But Danino said a probe had already been conducted - by another retired judge, Shalom Brenner, who concluded last July that while there were flaws in the police's conduct of the case, no malice was involved. "Every time somebody doesn't like the results of an examination or investigation, is he going to establish another committee?" Danino demanded.
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