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Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Tuesday informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyers that he would not order a criminal investigation into the conduct of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss as they had requested the previous day.
"The attorney-general does not believe the criminal sphere is the proper place to look into the kinds of claims that you have raised in your letter," his chief assistant, Ran Nezri, wrote to attorneys Eli Zohar and Ro'i Blecher. "The proper place is the public arena, and it appears that that is what is happening."
On Monday, Zohar and Blecher sent a 58-page letter to Mazuz aimed at rebutting the charges leveled by Lindenstrauss against their client on April 29. In his letter, Lindenstrauss had recommended that Mazuz order a criminal investigation against Olmert over his purchase of a home on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem's German Colony. Olmert's attorneys called on Mazuz to order a criminal investigation of Lindenstrauss.
Mazuz's comment that the matter was already being fought out in the public arena quickly proved accurate.
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-NRP), head of the Knesset State Control Committee, said he planned to convene a committee meeting possibly this week and summon Olmert, Lindenstrauss, Mazuz and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to it.
"I'm determined to summon all the people involved and seat them around the discussion table in order to protect the institution of the State Comptroller's Office," he told the Internet news Web site Ynet.
Orlev also charged that in calling for police to investigate Lindenstrauss, Olmert had gone too far. "His attempts to undermine the status of the state comptroller constitute a mortal blow to democratic foundations and will be a disaster for generations to come. On his way down, Olmert has decided to bring down the house and take with him all those who have done their duty, and in doing so, hurt his position, and rightly so."
Meanwhile, Knesset Law Committee Chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) repeated a warning he had made several times over the past eight months to the effect that he would pass a law to restrict Lindenstrauss's activities. Ben-Sasson accused the state comptroller of leaking drafts of his investigations to the media before the subjects of the investigation had had the opportunity to respond to the findings and before publication of the final report, which took their explanations into account.
As an example, Ben-Sasson told The Jerusalem Post that recently one of the newspapers wrote that MK and former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin had embezzled money and perpetrated other improper acts in connection with the Visitors' Center that he initiated. Several weeks later, the matter was mentioned in the state comptroller's annual report, but the charges were much less severe. It was obvious that someone in the State Comptroller's Office had leaked the draft to the newspaper before Rivlin and the Knesset had the opportunity to give their side of the story, he said.
Ben-Sasson added that in a recent meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee, Lindenstrauss had admitted to showing a copy of the draft of his report on the government's handling of the home front during the Second Lebanon War to reporters, before those criticized in the report, including Olmert, had had the chance to respond to his findings.
Ben-Sasson added that the leaks were a new phenomenon in the conduct of the state comptroller. Lindenstrauss's predecessors had not resorted to such a tactic, he charged.
He added that he intended to amend the Basic Law: State Committee to prevent the excesses that Lindenstrauss was allegedly guilty of and restore the functioning of the office to what it had been before the current state comptroller was appointed to it.