Days Before His Term Ends, Israel's Justice Minister Threatens to Investigate Ex-state Prosecutor

Minister Ohana says Shai Nitzan illegally used official email account after being put on leave, but Nitzan says it is part of 'ongoing delegitimization campaign'

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Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaking at an accountants' conference, Jerusalem, March 2, 2020.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaking at an accountants' conference, Jerusalem, March 2, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Justice Minister Amir Ohana said on Saturday that former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan "entered the Justice Ministry’s email system, ostensibly in violation of the law” and said he would call on State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman to look into the matter. Ohana threatened that if Englman does not comply, he would consider setting up a ministerial panel to investigate it.

Nitzan said in a statement released later on Saturday: “Justice Minister Ohana’s claim… is entirely unfounded and is part of his ongoing delegitimization campaign against me and the State Prosecution.”

Ohana was referring to a report on Channel 13, according to which Nitzan had used his official email after his retirement. Nitzan was put on a three-month leave at the end of his term, as are other civil servants. He said that he continued using his computer during that period, as he claimed is customary.

Ohana made his claim in a Facebook post, less than a week ahead of leaving the Justice Ministry in light of the planned swearing-in of a new government. He may become the public security minister in the new cabinet, with Culture Minister Miri Regev also competing for that position. If he doesn’t get that post, Ohana will apparently become the transportation, education or health minister.

Shai Nitzan at a legal conference, September 3, 2019.
Shai Nitzan at a legal conference, September 3, 2019.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Nitzan responded to the news report, saying that “in the three months after stepping down, I remained a ministry employee on leave. During this time my computer remained with me, including access to the office email service. This is standard procedure for employees on leave.”

Ohana argued in his post that enhancing public confidence in law enforcement agencies should have been the top priority of these agencies, but that “these services are deeply tainted by conflicts of interest, personal ties, cliques and irrelevant considerations, which prevent this from happening.”

He added “there are growing suspicions, but there is currently no state prosecutor who could investigate this. In the meantime, there is a former state prosecutor who enters Justice Ministry systems, ostensibly violating the law.”

"I therefore decided to meet the state comptroller tomorrow [Sunday] morning and ask him to look into this matter," Ohana added. "There is simply no other agency that can effectively oversee all the faults of this system. The Justice Ministry’s oversight commissioner Justice David Rozen, whom I deeply respect, does not have the authority to investigate this matter. If the state comptroller refrains from investigating, I’ll consider forming a ministerial commission of inquiry to investigate the growing number of concerns [about the State Prosecution].”

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