Public Security Minister Slams Israel's Top Prosecutors Over Handling of Netanyahu Probe

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan engaged in 'lies, illegal leaks, extortion of witness,' says Amir Ohana

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Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, wearing a mask.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana. Credit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The country’s two top prosecutors engaged in “lies, illegal leaks, extortion of witness and contempt for due process” during their investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister claimed on Monday.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan engaged in this behavior, Amir Ohana added, due to “arrogance and intoxication with power, in the belief that the public is stupid, doesn’t see and doesn’t hear.”

Ohana was responding to comments made by Mendelblit earlier in the day in response to reported comments by Ohana. Mendelblit, speaking at a pre-Rosh Hashanah toast at the Justice Ministry, said that “a country where indicting an elected official is defined as ‘undermining democracy’ ... is a corrupt country.” But Ohana claimed Mendelblit had taken his comment about “undermining democracy” out of context.

“Had he been interested in what I really said – that is, the full statement, and not just the headlines – he would know that I said indicting an elected official, especially the prime minister, undermines democracy and thwarts the will of the voters, and therefore, if the prosecution does so, it must be without stain, ‘holier than the pope,’” Ohana said in his response. Instead, he charged, Mendelblit and Nitzan had engaged in “lies, illegal leaks, extortion of witness and contempt for due process” in the Netanyahu cases.

Mendelblit also said at the toast that Netanyahu “is a citizen of the country, too,” and therefore, his trial should be conducted “like any other criminal trial.”

Shai Nitzan (left) and Avichai Mendelblit at a farewell event for former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Jerusalem, June 4, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman

In addition, he used the occasion to respond to Netanyahu’s claim that to avoid undermining public faith in their cases against the prime minister, the police and prosecution covered up misconduct in the case of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, the Bedouin man who was shot and killed by police, and whose car then veered into a group of police officers, killing one.

“This is of course libel,” Mendelblit said, promising to cooperate with any investigation into a possible cover-up. “These crude lies must be exposed and denounced.”

Netanyahu based his claim largely on a Channel 12 report last week about Nitzan’s refusal to investigate then-Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich’s alleged leaks of material from the Abu al-Kiyan case. Despite acknowledging that Alsheich’s behavior was “scandalous,” Nitzan said in an email that it was better not to take action, for fear that it would undermine prosecution-police relations and because “it would only benefit those who wish the law enforcement system ill.”

Abu al-Kiyan’s car crashed into and killed policeman Erez Levy during a protest in Umm al-Hiran in 2017. The initial assumption was that Abu al-Kiyan had committed a car-ramming attack.

Two subsequent investigations, by the Shin Bet security service and the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct, concluded that he wasn’t a terrorist, and likely crashed into Levy because he lost control of the car after being shot and wounded by police. Nevertheless, Nitzan closed the case against the policemen suspected of shooting him and said it was impossible to know whether or not Abu al-Kiyan he was a terrorist.

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