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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
State Attorney Moshe Lador said Monday that he and the top echelon of the State Attorney's Office spend 60-70 percent of their time dealing with corruption or other investigations involving public figures.
"The public sector is infected with what we view as corruption of civil servants and elected officials," he said. "As a result, the public does not have faith in it. In the coming years, we must fight this phenomenon so that these people will fulfill their duties as trustees of the public and not cause damage to the foundation upon which society rests."
Lador called on the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to help pressure the government into allocating more money to the state prosecution and other law enforcement branches. He said times have changed and the volume of work which the prosecution had to handle was far greater than in the past.
Not only are the files thicker, but unlike in the past, much of the legal battles are conducted outside the court. "Today, we face a reality in which a very large part of the campaign which the prosecutors wage against defendants, their lawyers and public relations companies involves activity outside the court, activity in which state lawyers must rebut allegations of impropriety aimed at them, and the portrayal of facts bearing almost no relation to the evidence."
Here, too, Lador said, the committee would have to decide whether it was willing to do something about this phenomenon in which the question of a suspect's guilt was determined in the public or media sphere, before it was brought to court.
He added that as part of the public interference in criminal cases, there were prosecutors who received threats, including on their lives.
During the question-and-answer period following Lador's introduction, Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) attacked the behavior of the state prosecution during the hearings on High Court petitions seeking to overturn the plea bargain between former president Moshe Katsav and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. During the hearings, Mazuz provided details from the testimonies of two of the women who accused Katsav of committing sexual crimes against them. He did this in order to explain to the court why he had ultimately concluded that their testimonies were problematic and did not guarantee a court conviction with the necessary degree of probability.
Gal-On charged that in doing so, Mazuz and the prosecution had exposed and humiliated the women. "The prosecution exploited the women and used them in an ugly way," she charged.
In his response, Lador said that while it was imperative to protect women who complained about sexual crimes, Mazuz had no choice in this matter. "I don't know any way of altogether preventing the disclosure of testimony, but I hope that the State Attorney's Office did everything it could to limit the injury," Lador replied.
Gal-On was not satisfied by the response. In a statement issued after the meeting, she told Lador that "the state prosecution under your direction continues to legitimize the branding and defaming of women who complain about sexual crimes."
Meanwhile, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel issued a statement charging that the State Attorney's Office was not dealing quickly enough with public figures already under suspicion of corruption.
"Four ministers - Ruhama Avraham, Shalom Simhon, Ya'acov Edri and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - are in office while their cases have been lying around for years without being given speedy treatment," the organization charged.