Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting, March 11, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
State Attorney Shai Nitzan gave one of the harshest counterattacks yet in defending the prosecution’s conduct of the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially with using state’s witnesses.
Last week, Netanyahu put out a Facebook video with a blistering attack on the state’s witnesses that have turned against him and the idea of using state’s witnesses.
He said that some of the state’s witnesses had been told by police to lie and incriminate him in order to save their skin and implied that the police’s treatment of the state’s witnesses was reminiscent of non-democratic regimes.
Netanyahu himself has been taking hits in the media as three former top aides – Nir Hefetz, Shlomo Filber and Ari Harow – have all agreed to testify for the state in cases against him.
Without explicitly mentioning the prime minister by name, Nitzan counter-punched on Sunday and said that “14 eyes,” or seven of the country’s top legal and police officials, must approve state’s witnesses in the cases against the prime minister.
“We never try to recruit a state’s witness by trying to get him to lie and incriminate someone else. Any claim to the contrary is baseless. We are obligated solely to the truth and solely to evidence,” he said.
“A basic prerequisite to signing this kind of a plea deal is that the officials dealing with the issue are convinced, before signing it, that the witness is telling the truth, and that there are external pieces of evidence which support that his words are truthful,” the state attorney said.
“Especially since we are dealing with an offender, we are extra cautious before we sign,” he added.
Nitzan explained that most bribery and corruption schemes do not occur in public and that many scheme masterminds make sure that they are well-removed from the concrete criminal acts being committed.
For this reason, he said, state’s witnesses are a crucial tool for uncovering the truth and the full picture and have been used for a long time in Israel and in other countries.
At the same time, Nitzan went out of his way to discourage any thought of the prosecution being close to a decision.
Appearing to suggest that it would still take a good deal of time before there was a decision, he said that the prosecution would be failing in its role if it rushed to cater to populism.
He said that all of the media who wanted to mark the Netanyahu cases as a guaranteed criminal indictment were jumping the gun and that it was important to maintain any suspect’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty.