Lieberman: Police Leaks Are the Real Obstruction of Justice

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asked the High Court of Justice yesterday to order a probe of who leaked information about a police investigation of him in 2008, as he redoubled his verbal attacks on the police in response to media reports about his interrogation earlier this week.

Tuesday's police interrogation dealt with suspicions that Israel's former ambassador to Belarus had given him information about the police investigation against him.

"This is the mother and father of obstructing an investigation," Lieberman said about the media reports of the Belarus affair. "When details of an interrogation are published without any indictment being filed, that is obstructing an investigation par excellence."

Lieberman's attorney, Yaron Kosteliz, said the timing of the petition had nothing to do with this week's interrogation.

The foreign minister declined to comment on the interrogation, other than to say the information leaked to the media was "tendentious and distorted, and any relationship between it and reality is purely coincidental."

He also said police had asked him not to divulge any details of the interrogation, and accused Police Commissioner David Cohen's office of contacting the press.

The petition itself focused on an incident that occurred in February 2008, when documents relating to his investigation were leaked to the media. The documents included a classified report on the case that police investigators had prepared for then-police commissioner Moshe Karadi.

A month later, Lieberman petitioned the High Court to demand a criminal investigation of the leak, which law-enforcement officials said could only have come from one of 13 police officers. But in November 2008, then-attorney general Menachem Mazuz told the court he opposed launching a probe because leak investigations are notoriously difficult and the chances of finding the leaker were negligible.

The justices nevertheless recommended investigating, citing the need to root out the culture of leaks. But the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court refused to allow investigators to access the phone logs of the 13 suspects, and the probe was closed in July 2009.

Yesterday's petition asked that the investigation be reopened, arguing that even without the phone logs, there are other steps investigators could take to pursue the case.

"Wouldn't it, for instance, be possible to interrogate the 13 police officers, or ask them to take a polygraph test?" the petition asked.

'Well-founded' suspicions

The assessment among law-enforcement officials is that the suspicions regarding the former ambassador, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, are well-founded, and that police will soon pass the material on to the prosecution with a recommendation that Lieberman be indicted.

Ben Aryeh, who has also served as Lieberman's political advisor, has already admitted to the main points of the allegation, which is that in October 2008, when police asked him to send classified material related to their request for assistance in the Lieberman case to Belarus' law enforcement agencies, he gave it to Lieberman instead.

Foreign Ministry officials said the Ben Aryeh probe is directly affecting the foreign minister's work. For instance, they said, at a luncheon meeting yesterday with the foreign minister of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajcak, Lieberman seemed preoccupied and unfocused.

"Lieberman never opened his mouth; he barely said a word throughout the entire meal," said one. "It seemed as if he simply weren't there, as if his head were someplace else entirely."

They also said the probe is expected to lead to the revocation of Ben Aryeh's latest appointment, as ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania.

Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander and Foreign Ministry director general Yossi Gal agreed yesterday that Ben Aryeh, who has not yet taken up his new posting, will be put on forced leave until the affair is cleared up.

Barak Ravid contributed to this report.