Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino has finally given voice to the obvious. He argued openly for legal limits to how long the police can carry on an investigation without ever producing actual charges. It’s “clearly unreasonable,” he intoned, for an investigation to drag on over a decade with no indictment.

It is likely Danino referred to the attorney-general’s pending decision on whether to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on a series of offenses including money-laundering, fraud and breach of trust. Speaking at a different forum several days later, State Attorney Moshe Lador expressed similar sentiments.

Such input is important, especially as it comes from the highest police and prosecution echelons.

Varying versions exist regarding how long Liberman has been under investigation. According to some, the police had already targeted him once he quit his post as director- general of the Prime Minister’s Office in 1997. He then established two trading companies, one based in Cyprus.

Another version claims that the police trained its sights on Liberman only in 1999. The most minimal estimate, the one the police proffers, is that it was on Liberman’s tail just since 2001.

Regardless of which account we subscribe to, there’s no denying that this is an inordinately lengthy probe.

We have no way of judging Liberman and no intention of weighing in on his culpability one way or the other. Yet every citizen should be alarmed by the spectacle of a police project of exceptionally excessive duration, directed doggedly at one given individual, though with mutating accusations against him.

Big guns were aimed at Liberman for supposed infractions of campaign financing regulations by his party Yisrael Beytenu. That case eventually evaporated but the investigators changed tack and began looking for other offenses. For a time bribery charges hung over Liberman’s head but these too vanished. That’s when investigators homed in on companies that are no longer under Liberman’s name but which the police maintain he owns and operates clandestinely.

Too close for comfort, the above resemble fishing expeditions, undertaken in the hope of netting a catch. Moreover, unseemly methods were employed over the years in the course of this inquiry.

It isn’t just our say-so. Already back in 2003, then-attorney- general Elyakim Rubinstein, now a Supreme Court justice, published a scathing report exposing police misconduct.

Rubinstein recommended removing head of the police investigations unit Moshe Mizrahi from his post.

He charged Mizrahi brazenly extended permissions he obtained to bug politicians’ phones and illicitly eavesdropped on their conversations and on those of any member of their family, including children.

Mizrahi, who just ran in the Labor party Knesset primary, was further accused of transcribing those conversations, along with other material, and hoarding everything for undisclosed future use – including what by no stretch of the imagination had anything to do with the investigation purportedly in progress. Mizrahi’s foremost victim was Liberman but he wasn’t alone, something which should send additional shivers down all liberal spines.

Rubinstein said that his findings made his “hair stand on end”: 70% of what Mizrahi had transcribed of Liberman’s conversations was wholly irrelevant to what he was ostensibly investigating. Rubinstein described himself as “sickened to see the nature of the material” Mizrahi saw fit to keep, after he unlawfully transcribed what shouldn’t have been eavesdropped upon. Mizrahi then illegally secreted these illegal transcripts.

Police transcribers under Mizrahi’s command themselves balked when asked to record conversations of spouses, youngsters, elderly parents, doctors, service-providers, journalists, friends and casual acquaintances.

Transcripts of idle chatter and intimate talk remained in Mizrahi’s safe, some bound in files labeled “political.” This is only part of what ought to engender great unease among all who cherish the rights of even those politicians whom they don’t necessarily relish.

No matter how Liberman’s saga concludes, it should, as per Danino’s recommendations, lead to legal curtailments on the length of time in which our law-enforcers can pursue a given case. It cannot be that the police and prosecution would usurp over a decade of anyone’s life because of hunches, even if said hunches are somehow eventually borne out after all.

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