Hefetz to request A-G criminally probe Ohana for violating gag order

Minister claims Mandelblit decision not to probe leaks violates High Court decision

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Nir Hefetz and his lawyer said late Wednesday that they would likely ask Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to criminally probe Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana for intentionally violating a court-issued gag order designed to protect Hefetz from undue pressure.
Earlier Wednesday, Ohana gave a speech at the Knesset in which he likely violated the gag order prohibiting publishing details about a third party who the police questioned in February 2018.
Seemingly, the police used the third party to pressure Hefetz into turning state’s witness against the prime minister.
Ohana noted that the third party was a woman and that the police’s questions related to improper romantic relations between them – since Hefetz is married.
Throughout Ohana’s speech, Labor MK Revital Swid and Blue and White MKs Yael German and Yoel Segalovitz interrupted saying he should be ashamed for trying to tear down the country’s law enforcement at Netanyahu’s bidding.
Later, Segalovitz sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein calling on him to establish an ad-hoc Knesset ethics inquiry into Ohana’s alleged violation of the gag order.
After being attacked both in the Knesset and on Twitter for violating the gag order, Ohana responded that everything he said was already published in the public sphere.
He denied violating the gag order, saying he does not even have copies of all of the classified materials.
However, it did appear that aspects of the details he mentioned, which could be deeply embarrassing to Hefetz, had not been previously widely discussed or published.
The attorney-general’s office said it did not want to comment on whether Ohana had violated the gag order.
Netanyahu himself supported actions to undercut the police for allegedly improperly pressuring Hefetz to testify him, but implicitly criticized Ohana for violating the gag order.
Also, in Ohana’s speech he attacked Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan, saying the decision not to probe law enforcement leaks against Netanyahu violated prior High Court of Justice decisions.
Asked to provide more detailed information about this legal claim, Ohana’s spokesman had not responded by press time.
Ohana and Netanyahu’s lawyers have argued that the leaks themselves, as well as new allegations from this week that the police improperly pressured Hefetz into turning state’s witness against the prime minister, may have harmed the right to a fair trial.
Mandelblit, Nitzan and the prosecution have said that general policy with similar leaks is not to probe because of the potential harm to freedom of the press and silencing whistleblowers.
Their point has been that resisting a powerhouse like an allegedly corrupt prime minister is a fitting purpose and should not necessarily be criminally probed, though they do condemn the leaks and have called on leakers to stop.
Ohana received help from Judge David Rozen on Tuesday, who has oversight of the prosecution and who called the leaks “a blow to the state.”
Continuing the round of attacks and counterattacks between himself versus the attorney-general and the prosecution, Ohana listed off three prosecutors who were indicted for corruption, including Ruth David, a previous head of the prominent Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office.
The acting justice minister accused prosecutors of hiding improper conduct and said that Rozen does not have sufficient powers to set them straight.
He called for an outside probe of the prosecution, though he was vague about exactly what he was seeking and, as mere acting justice minister as opposed to a permanent appointment, he has limited power in this area.
Responding to these allegations, Mandelblit and Nitzan on late Wednesday took the unusual step of calling out Ohana for criticism by name.
They said they “completely reject the words of the justice minister” saying that his accusing the prosecution of corruption was “extremely problematic and does an injustice to reality.”
They also accused Ohana of trying to rip down “the defensive wall for the [average] citizens of the state from criminals” harming them.
Finally, they accused Ohana of doing Netanyahu’s bidding by effectively conducting a public live version of the pre-indictment proceedings just as Netanyahu had requested.
Further, they added that just as they had rejected a public pre-indictment hearing, they would not be drawn into commenting on every leaked media report or specific attack, sticking instead to a general defense of the prosecution apparatus.
With Mandelblit expected to indict Netanyahu in the coming weeks, the pro- and anti-Netanyahu sides have been taking shots at each other and at the prosecution nearly every day.