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MK Yitzhak Aharonovich of Yisrael Beiteinu, a former deputy police commissioner, harshly criticized police conduct toward the party's leader, Avigdor Lieberman, yesterday.

In an interview with Haaretz, Aharonovich said that in handling the Lieberman case, "the police are capitulating to the atmosphere emanating from their superiors" and are not acting with the proper degree of independence.

Asked whether he sees political motives behind the police's behavior, as Lieberman has insinuated, Aharonovich spoke cautiously: "To say that the police are political is a strong statement. However, they understand the spirit of the political officials in charge of them, and do not always take independent steps. Lieberman is not the first and only example of this behavior. I certainly expect the police to take a more independent and clearcut stance."

Regarding the longstanding investigation against Lieberman, which has been going on for eight years and cost him his candidacy for public security minister, as well as a new case under investigation, Aharonovich said that in his professional experience as a former deputy police commissioner and commander of two police districts, "something here does not seem right to me."

"I very much hope there is no persecution here, but I know the meaning of 'new material,'" he said. "Somebody is out to get Ivet [Lieberman] and sends an anonymous letter, and the investigations branch begins checking. Instead, they should have suspended the handling of what are termed 'new materials,' unless they contained immediate grounds for his disqualification, or, alternatively, conducted a quick check with a large team working around the clock. They're dealing here with the fate of a man and the fate of a movement."

Aharonovich also criticized the decision not to give the public security portfolio to another Yisrael Beiteinu member if Lieberman is ruled out.