Attorney General Quizzes Legal Watchdog Over Exceeding Authority

Move follows complaint by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan into actions by ombudswoman Hila Gerstl.

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Retired Judge Hila Gerstl.
Retired Judge Hila Gerstl.Credit: Moti Milrod

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has asked the ombudswoman responsible for complaints against the state prosecution to respond to charges that she exceeded her authority.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who raised the accusation against ombudswoman Hila Gerstl in a letter to Weinstein last week, argued that she exceeded her authority by criticizing a prosecutor’s conduct in a suit against the state’s decision to cancel Dr. Maya Furman-Resnick’s appointment to a senior post at the Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Gerstl concluded that prosecutor Rachel Shilansky acted wrongly by asking the state’s chief pathologist, Dr. Chen Kugel, to alter his affidavit to the labor court in that case.

Nitzan wrote that if Gerstl’s decision weren’t overturned, “and the prosecution has to operate in accordance with the principles it sets down,” the prosecution would no longer be able to function “reasonably” in administrative and civil cases. Nitzan also slammed the fact that the decision was reported by Haaretz, saying this “caused great damage to the prosecution’s professional reputation,” and especially to Shilansky, who heads the labor law department.

Sources involved in the case said that prosecutors never spoke with Kugel about the suit, even though he was one of the defendants and they were supposed to represent him. Instead, he was kept out of meetings on the matter on the grounds that he had a conflict of interests.

“There was malice aforethought in this whole story,” said one. “It wasn’t just the negotiations over the affidavit and the attempt to change it, but the disregard for the status of a senior civil servant who was a defendant in the case.”

The prosecution responded, “It’s inconceivable that every civil servant should determine the state’s position on a legal matter; that’s what the attorney general is for. A civil servant can’t be asked to change the facts about which he is supposed to testify. But the case is different with regard to any legal opinions he has that contradict the state’s position. The claim that Kugel’s position wasn’t even heard is incorrect.”