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Head of the Israel Prison Service Yaakov Ganot, who has been elected for the position of police commissioner, submitted on Friday a response to the petitions filed with the High Court of Justice against his appointment to the post.

Critics believe that since Ganot had in the past been indicted for crimes associated with corruption, he should be barred from being appointed police commissioner, even though he was acquitted.

According to Ganot's response, submitted by his attorney Yaakov Weinrot, Ganot successfully served in a series of positions in which "he was required to delineate a clear policy on matters that included dealing with public corruption. In one such case, he headed a strategic think tank dealing with severe crime in modern society," as a result of which the police's international unit was formed.

"Reading the petitions against Ganot, one might think that Ganot is immersed in fault, but this is not so. Ganot is a decorated officer and his resume is a model of a life of selfless sacrifice," added Weinrot.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter estimated Thursday that Ganot's appointment would be approved by the High Court of Justice and the Turkel Committee. Despite this, Dichter said he has an alternative candidate for the position of police commissioner lined up.

State Comptroller's Report questions Ganot's integrityThe State Comptroller's report said that in 2002-2003, while Ganot headed the Immigration Administration (IA), the reported numbers for migrant workers expelled from Israel were inflated by tens of percentage points. The report, which did not mention Ganot by name, listed several grave findings in the administration's functioning.

Ganot was already serving as Prison Service commissioner, a post he was appointed to in July 2003, when the report was released.

To inflate the number of foreigners supposedly expelled from the country, the IA used to include in its figures tourists from Western countries and Jews who had overstayed their visas, the Comptroller's Report said.

The report slams malfunctions in the IA's activity as well, particularly in its field-work supervision and its cooperation with other government bodies. It blasts the administration for wasting resources, neglecting to enforce the law vis-a-vis the employers of migrant workers and infringing on those workers' rights.

The report found that not all of the laborers who were expelled by air had been made to sign a form waiving their right to appeal their expulsion. "It is therefore doubtful whether the detainees' agreement had been given willingly and freely," the comptroller wrote.

The report castigated the cooperation of the Prison Service and the Immigration Administration. Although the Prison Service (which was already headed by Ganot) announced that the Maasiyahu prison compound was open to admit foreign workers 24 hours a day, documents from the IA showed it did not deliver them at night. Due to the lack of coordination between these bodies, said the report, "foreign workers' human rights were infringed upon" and the process of their expulsion "was filled with shortcomings... [and] the norms and regulations were not properly enforced."

Dichter praised Ganot's efficiency this week while announcing his appointment as national police chief. Dichter also said the organizational structure of the police needed to be changed.

The Comptroller's Report raises doubts about both Ganot's efficiency and his integrity.

In the year between the time Ganot formed the Immigration Administration and his appointment as prison commissioner, police commanders occasionally commented at general command staff debates that the IA's figures were artificially inflated and unreliable. Ganot reacted angrily to the comments.

In the '90s, after Ganot - then a police major general - was acquitted due to reasonable doubt of charges of fraud and breach of trust and put on disciplinary trial, the state prosecution demanded his removal from the police altogether. Then-public security minister Avigdor Kahalani said in a letter to the prosecution that Ganot would be "removed from all field command posts and from central headquarters posts."

State: Panel should screen Ganot before High Court makes rulingThe committee that vets senior civil service appointments should make a decision on Ganot's planned appointment as police commissioner before the High Court of Justice rules on the matter, the state argued in a submission to the court Thursday.

In so doing, the state effectively asked the court to overrule a decision made earlier this week by the committee chairman, former Supreme Court justice Yaacov Turkel. Turkel said that his panel would not discuss the appointment until the court rules on three petitions against it. The petitions, which the court is due to hear on Sunday, argue that Ganot is unfit for the post because, while serving as a district commander in the police in 1994, he was indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He was acquitted of the criminal charges, but confessed to disciplinary offenses.

In its brief, the state argued that the court should postpone hearing the petitions until either the Turkel Committee makes its decision, or the cabinet approves the appointment, which would happen only if the committee okays it. "The committee's principal mandate is examining probity," the brief said, and therefore, it should do its job rather than letting the court decide in its stead.

Moreover, it argued, should the panel veto Ganot's appointment, the court case would become unnecessary. And in any case, it added, the court does not usually rule on appointments until they are final, on the grounds that they might never come to pass. In this case, even if the Turkel Committee did not veto the appointment, its findings could either cause Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to withdraw the nomination or cause the cabinet to reject it. The state also noted that Ganot has not yet given the Turkel Committee various relevant documents, and argued that the absence of this material would also preclude the court from hearing the case.

Although the committee, then headed by former Supreme Court justice Gavriel Bach, approved Ganot's appointment as Prisons Service commissioner in 2003, Turkel told Haaretz earlier this week his panel would not be bound by this decision, both because of the differences between that job and police commissioner and because the Zeiler Committee's harsh report on police malfeasance makes the moral stature of the commissioner especially important.

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