Gag Finally Lifted on Transcripts of Wiretapped Calls by Zaken

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter yesterday lifted the gag order on transcripts of secretly-wiretapped calls of the former prime minister's bureau chief, Shula Zaken, during the sexual harassment investigation against minister Haim Ramon.

The transcripts are of three telephone calls and a text message that were intercepted during another investigation - into alleged corruption at the Tax Authority. The transcripts raised the suspicion that Zaken had tried to persuade the complainant against Ramon to drop her complaint against him.

However, after no evidence was uncovered, the prosecution decided to stop using the wiretaps. The prosecution did not hand the transcripts to Ramon's defense attorneys.

Ramon's attorney, Navot Tel-Zur, argued that using the transcripts in the Ramon case was unlawful.

Deputy State Prosecutor Yariv Regev wrote to Tel-Zur on Sunday that this argument was groundless.

Regev wrote that Tel Aviv District Court President Uri Goren had confirmed retroactively that the transcripts obtained during the Tax Authority inquiry were used in the Ramon case as well. Goren would not have allowed using the transcripts had he not examined the request carefully, Regev wrote.

At the beginning of the month retired judge Vardi Zeiler ruled that the flaws in the Ramon inquiry and the prosecution's failure to submit the transcripts to the defense prevented the minister from defending himself properly. Zeiler recommended setting up a state inquiry commission to probe the failures.

"Had Zeiler asked the prosecution for an explanation while he was formulating his conclusions, he would have obtained a more balanced picture of the sides' positions, sparing us the malfunctions in his opinion...," Regev wrote Tel-Zur.

Regev also wrote that Goren's decision was supposed to have been the end of the affair and the last word on the legality of the permit to wiretap those conversations. Therefore, there was no justification to form another body to continue looking into it.

Regev admitted that it was wrong not to give the transcripts to Ramon. "We are sorry for the flaws in the process of handing over the wiretapping material," he wrote, noting that his office had begun to learn the lessons from this affair and will continue to draw conclusions.

"However, we fear that dealing with this issue, in a case where no appeal was made on the defendant's conviction, when certain people are trying hard to create the impression that the case is all about this issue and that the court that convicted the defendant did not debate the case with all the details in mind, could create an incorrect picture that could ultimately mislead the public," he wrote.