State: Probe into Lieberman leak is at dead end

“As long as we don’t have any evidentiary lead or concrete reasons to suspect any particular person, there is little to go on," Justice says.

February 9, 2011 03:43
3 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

lieberman_521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Two years after launching a probe into leaks emanating from a police investigation of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, prosecutor Dana Briskman told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that the probe had reached a dead end and that the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department was incapable of fulfilling the court’s orders to dig deeper into the case.

Lieberman had originally petitioned the High Court in March 2008, after investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak wrote two articles in his Internet newspaper, News First Class, quoting from an internal memo sent by the head of the police team investigating Lieberman to then-Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi. Lieberman demanded that the state uncover the source of the leak.

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The state acknowledged there had been a leak and said it would order the PID to investigate.

Satisfied with the state’s promise, Lieberman withdrew the petition.

In the end, however, the Justice Ministry closed the investigation, saying that the PID could not take the necessary measures to investigate the matter any further.

It said it did not want to order all those on the investigating team to take a lie detector test, or even to summon them for police questioning, because that would automatically mean they were suspects.

It also did not to call in Yitzhak, the reporter, for questioning, or investigate his phone calls because that would violate the freedom of the press.

After then-attorney-general Menahem Mazuz closed the case, Lieberman petitioned the court again.

On Tuesday, Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Esther Hayut and Uzi Fogelman questioned prosecutor Briskman and raised questions about the state’s decision not to investigate the officers who were directly exposed to the investigation details, or to ask them to submit to lie detector tests.

“As long as we don’t have any evidentiary lead or concrete reasons to suspect any particular person, there is little to go on,” Briskman replied.

She said the only options left were to subject the officers to lie detector tests, something the Justice Ministry were loath to do because of the sensitivity of the act, or to question Yitzhak directly and subpoena his phone records, to try and find the source of the leak.

“The feeling that came out of a meeting with the state attorney himself was that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Briskman said.

The investigation had narrowed the number of likely suspects to 13 police officers who were directly involved in the case, but it is possible that the leak emerged from someone who wasn’t directly involved, and it may not even have come from a police source as others, including officials in the State Attorney’s Office, were involved.

Lieberman’s lawyer, Yaron Kostelitz, said the investigation had not gone deep enough and hinted that the reason for the superficial treatment lay in the fact that the suspects were police officers.

“I wish the same sensitivities that my friend talked about was practiced regarding all Israelis,” he said. “The state failed to conduct a serious study. They didn’t even call them [the officers] in for a preliminary investigation.

This case screams of double standards. For 11 years, the petitioner [Lieberman] has been investigated on every detail, but the 13 policemen aren’t asked about anything. This case screams for your intervention,” Kostelitz told the justices.

Fogelman challenged Kostelitz, asking him whether ordering a police officer to undergo a lie detector test without a shred of evidence against him was reasonable, and whether he himself would be wiling to undergo a polygraph test under the same conditions.

Kostelitz responded that a lie detector test was not the only option and that even if it was, in his opinion it was reasonable.

The judges deferred their decision on Lieberman’s petition.

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