Calls Mount for Special Body Supervising Prosecutor's Office

MK Uri Ariel schedules a meeting to review the Justice Ministry's preparations toward creating such an agency.

Calls are mounting for the creation of a supervisory body over the State Prosecutor's Office, after former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted Tuesday of most of the corruption charges against him.

In a measure unrelated to the verdict, State Control Committee chairman Uri Ariel scheduled a meeting of the panel for around two weeks from now to review the Justice Ministry's preparations toward creating such an agency.

Ariel and a number of MKs from various parties have drafted a private member's bill that would create a supervisory body similar in structure to the Justice Ministry's ombudsman of the judiciary. That official investigates complaints against judges from members of the public.

The Justice Ministry, which is wary of the private legislative initiative, is drawing up plans of its own for a supervisory agency with less authority than Ariel has proposed. That body would become operational in September.

The agency would not accept complaints from the public about specific problems relating to the performance of the State Prosecutor's Office, at least at first. This distinguishes it from the model proposed by Ariel's private member's bill. It would address broad issues such as delays in issuing verdicts.

A number of MKs on Wednesday demanded an extraordinary meeting of the State Control Committee, as early as next week, on the need for thorough stocktaking on the prosecutor's office after the Olmert verdict in the Jerusalem District Court.

The president of the Israel Bar Association, Doron Barzilay, asked Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to appoint an external committee to examine the way the prosecutors handled the case.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, meanwhile, defended State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and the prosecutors involved in the case, warning that personal attacks on prosecutors jeopardized the independence of the prosecutor's office.

"We are not ignoring the danger in unrestrained personal attacks against prosecutors who do their jobs with professionalism and integrity," Weinstein wrote in an email to prosecutors.

"State Prosecutor Moshe Lador is such a person, as are the prosecutors who worked on the [Olmert] case. Personal attacks of this nature constitute a threat to the independence of the General Prosecution Department, a principle that is critical to the rule of law."

Neeman, in contrast, has not commented on the criticism voiced against the State Prosecutor's Office since the verdict was announced Tuesday. He has not responded to questions from Haaretz about his silence on the matter.

The prosecutor's office, meanwhile, said Olmert's acquittal in the Rishon Tours and cash-envelopes affairs will not affect his trial in Tel Aviv over the Holyland Park luxury housing project. In that case, Olmert stands accused of taking bribes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem.

The Holyland Development Company and associated land developers allegedly paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Olmert and other senior municipal officials as well as members of the city's Planning and Building Committee. They also allegedly paid bribes to officials in the Israel Lands Administration.

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri said he was certain that anyone involved in the Holyland case would study Tuesday's verdict for its implications in the Holyland trial. A senior official at the State Prosecutor's Office told Haaretz that Nizri's remarks were general in nature and could apply to any case at any time.