Israel's State Prosecutor Rationalizes Expected Closure of Lieberman Case

Prosecutor cites difficulty in presenting evidence: 'people who are capable of shedding light on these matters are people who don't want to talk.'

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

One major problem in prosecuting corruption cases is the difficulty of bringing witnesses from overseas, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said on Friday, in what sounded like an anticipatory defense of a widely-expected decision to close the most serious cases against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"The battle in this area of governmental corruption by civil servants and elected officials is not at all simple," Lador told a conference on law and society at the Netanya Academic College.

"It entails difficulties. It's hard to collect evidence in this field, because who will the witnesses be? People who know something. Honest people generally don't know, they aren't involved. And people who are capable of shedding light on these matters are people who don't want to talk."

"In a large proportion of these cases, it's hard to recruit witnesses and evidence," he added. "There's more than a few people who know what happened around them but won't volunteer to talk, lest they be harmed. They know that in the Israeli reality, everything that doesn't end in a conviction is seen almost as if 'nothing happened.' So if a man is questioned and gives a full account, but evidence isn't found on which to base an indictment, that same elected official will go back to his work place and continue to be the boss of the man who went to the police and testified."

Another problem, Lador said, is getting witnesses to come from abroad - a problem directly relevant to Lieberman's case. For that, the cooperation of other states is needed, and "sometimes, there are no agreements between the countries." Even when there are, he noted, collecting evidence overseas "takes a lot of time, and sometimes cooperation is very limited ... It's nothing like the police's ability to take a statement from someone who's here in the interrogation room."

All these problems are compounded by the fact that in Israel, "the trial lasts longer than in a great many other countries, and years pass before the verdict is handed down ... So in the end, when you look back and ask when the case began, you say, 'Wow, this is unacceptable.'"

Aside from the objective difficulties, Lador said, the prosecution must also do a better job of coping with the media battle. For instance, he said, if a case ends in acquittal due to reasonable doubt, "the system is seem as having screwed up completely," even if the grounds for indictment were solid.

Avidor Lieberman speaking at the Foreign Ministry, September, 13, 2012. Credit: Michal Fattal

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