'Thought Police': Israeli Minister Decries Interrogation of Protesters Against Attorney General

Public security minister calls on police to 'do all it can to strengthen public trust in it,' hinting it treats complaints having to do with Mendelblit unlike 'other public figures'

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protest outside Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva, May 2020.
Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protest outside Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva, May 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called on Sunday for a probe into the interrogation of several Israelis who protested against Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who in January filed indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases.

Ohana ordered Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen and other senior officials to look into who had filed the complaints and asked for clarifications on detention of protesters near Mendelblit's home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva.

Haaretz podcast: If Biden wins, Trump transition could prove very significant for NetanyahuCredit: Haaretz

The Likud minister, considered a close ally of Netanyahu, listed several instances over the past few years in which protesters were questioned, arguing these cases might obstruct the freedom of speech.

"I would like to know how the attorney general differs from other public figures who experience encounters far stronger that those described that do not merit such treatment by the police?" Ohana said.

His letter comes amid increasing tensions between Netanyahu's allies and law enforcement bodies against the backdrop of the prime minister's trial and a wave of demonstrations calling on him to resign.

"The Israel Police is in a very sensitive period," Ohana added. "Particularly now, it must do all it can to strengthen public trust in it. This behavior raises heavy concerns about a 'thought police' that chills the public, both left and right, lest it express its opinions."

Ohana cited the questioning of neighbors who made comments to Mendelblit on the street. One woman was questioned in February after calling "shame" at the attorney general as he was on his way to the synagogue.Nine months after the incident, the prosecution closed the case against the woman.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana (center) on a visit to Sderot, Israel, August 16, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In another instance, a neighbor harangued Mendelblit for ostensibly framing the prime minister.

Ohana also mentioned the arrest of Oren Simon, an anti-Netanyahu activist, who was arrested in 2017 for holding a sign in front of the attorney general's home. This week a court ordered the police to pay Simon 30,000 shekels ($8,767) in compensation.

In recent weeks, coalition whip Miki Zohar threatened to release compromising tapes of Mendelblit, unless he halted the criminal cases against Netanyahu and resigned.

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