police car 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Zeiler Commission took State Attorney Eran Shendar on a walk down memory lane Sunday morning, as commission head and former district court judge Vardi Zeiler questioned him about his term as head of the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department.
Shendar painted a picture of poor communication between the PID and the Israel Police and underlined the significance of the Tzahi Ben-Or affair, in contrast to earlier witnesses, who had characterized the case as just another murder investigation.
During closed-door testimony, Shendar blasted what he said was the police's belief that PID investigations of officers up for new jobs and promotions were a rubber stamp.
He said that impression was evidence of a failure in communications between police and the PID.
Both Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi and Jerusalem District Police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco had earlier testified that police would not have thought to second-guess the PID's decision to drop its investigation into Levy.
Under Shendar, the PID investigated Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, then a candidate to lead the police's Southern District Central Investigative Unit, after Ben-Or hinted to police investigators that Levy was tied to the Peri-Perinian crime family. Ben-Or, a former member of an elite police unit, had allegedly been hired by the Perinians to kill reputed mobster Pinhas Buhbout.
Buhbout was shot to death in September 1999 by two men disguised as police officers as he lay in Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer recovering from an earlier attempt on his life. Ben-Or was arrested shortly thereafter for a series of robberies and confessed to the murder, saying he had been hired by the Perinian crime family from Hodaya, near Ashkelon.
Ben-Or offered to testify against the family and, according to Shendar, told investigators, "Don't take me to the police because there's a senior police officer" tied to the Perinians.
Ben-Or was released to house arrest and then fled the country. He was killed in Cancun, Mexico, in 2004.
Asst.-Cmdr. Amir Gur, CIU head at the time of Ben-Or's arrest, met with Shendar, and the two "made the logical connection" that the officer in question was none other than Levy.
During the closed-door part of his testimony, Shendar offered a more detailed explanation of how the two had reached that conclusion. He also addressed the issue of why neither police nor the PID investigated Levy independent of looking into Ben-Or's statements - a question that has arisen during several commission sessions - during the session closed to the public.
Shendar contradicted testimony from former CIU head Asst.-Cmdr. Benny Sagiv, who had said there were files passed to the PID showing Ben-Or had offered more details about the identity of the dirty officer.
He said that he had never seen documents showing Ben-Or had claimed that the officer in question was assigned to the Ashkelon Station or that he had grey hair, both items which had been mentioned in previous testimony.
In contrast to testimony offered by Karadi and Franco, Shendar said the suspicions against Levy had been dropped when the PID investigation against him was closed. The state attorney said that while the PID investigation had been dropped, this did not mean that Levy had been cleared but rather that the evidence wasn't enough to initiate proceedings.
Again in contrast to Karadi's testimony, Shendar said he had, from the onset, viewed the Ben-Or affair as exceptional.
"I could not think of another incident in which a police officer committed murder," Shendar said. "That was an explosion, something that catches your attention."