In Lieberman Case, Rule of Law Failed

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Yehuda Weinstein decided to close the Avigdor Lieberman case, a decision which will officially be announced on Thursday, with a heavy heart. The attorney general is at heart a defense attorney, but he has no illusions about the foreign minister's affairs.

He does not believe there is a plausible explanation as to why a company formerly owned by Yisrael Beiteinu's leader received millions of dollars from various business people in Israel and abroad. He does not believe there is a plausible explanation as to why another company, which was owned by Lieberman's daughter and managed by Lieberman's trustee, received some $3 million from one client (for consultation and lobbying ). The attorney general sees no satisfactory explanation for the web of dubious companies woven around one of the strongest political people in Israel, companies seemingly run and controlled by his associates and relatives.

Weinstein dismisses out of hand the possibility that Lieberman is an innocent man, persecuted unjustly by a bunch of evil men in the police force and State Prosecution. And yet, after a long agonized struggle the attorney general decided not to indict the foreign minister for the extremely serious affairs associated with him.

At the beginning of 2012 the attorney general thought differently. He tended to agree with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. If one examines the overall facts as though they were a half-abstract painting, one clearly sees Lieberman's familiar face in it. If the Lieberman film was a silent one, it would raise extremely serious suspicions.

The foreign minister is a very talented man, but he left quite a few finger prints on the front companies he was associated with and from which he has allegedly severed his ties.

But in recent months the attorney general has reached the conclusion that the Lieberman case stands or falls on one key witness. When the Cypriot witness was questioned a month ago in a strange Cypriot procedure, it transpired she retracted her previous incriminating testimony. Like in the best, darkest suspense movies, the attorney general faced a case in which one witness died, another committed suicide, a third wasn't located and the fourth changed her testimony. Many other witnesses held on to the unreliable cover story, protecting the prime suspect.

Under these conditions, Weinstein thought, the evidence piled on his desk would not enable Lieberman's conviction in court. True to his conservative worldview, Weinstein thought he must not present an indictment if its chances of crumbling were high.

In this, the Lieberman case is amazingly similar to Moshe Katzav's case. In both, the police and prosecution had no doubt about the fundamental truth exposed before them. In both cases they were aware of a real difficulty in turning the fundamental truth into a legal one. But while in Katzav's case [former attorney general] Menachem Mazuz and Lador made a (belated ) decision to go all the way and risk failure, in Lieberman's case Weinstein made the opposite decision. He decided to describe the reality he had discovered in closed rooms rather than bring it to court.

Weinstein will not admit it explicitly, but it is absolutely clear the rule of law has failed in the Lieberman case. Even if the decision is justified, it was made not due to the attorney general's deep conviction that the powerful suspect is innocent, but due to the police and prosecution's inability to gather cutting evidence in Cyprus, Moldova and Belarus.

Lieberman will be indicted for a relatively marginal affair, for which the evidence gathered (in Israel ) is solid. This shows that even in Jerusalem's Salah al-Din Street they are aware that closing the Lieberman case is onerous. A heavy cloud of heavy suspicions will be transferred Thursday from Israel's legal sphere to the public one.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem, May 20, 2012.Credit: AP

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