Winograd C'tee rejects Olmert's request

Prime minister asks to testify for a second time and to see critical findings.

August 2, 2007 13:33
2 minute read.
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The Winograd Committee has denied a request by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to see all the evidence upon which it based its critical assessment of his performance during the first few days of the Second Lebanon War. The committee said the information came from documents taken from the Prime Minister's Office and that he already had direct access to it, a source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Much of the information also was included in the classified copy of the interim report that the panel presented to Olmert, according to the source. The committee also told Olmert that if there was specific information he wanted over and above what was already available to him, he could request that information from the committee, which would consider it. The Prime Minister's Office had no comment on the matter Thursday night, apparently wanting to refrain from getting into a public dispute with the committee. According to reports published Wednesday, Olmert sought to appear before the committee to defend himself against its critical findings. The request was made by Olmert's lawyer, Eli Zohar. He was not in Israel to confirm the report, and another partner in the firm, Ro'i Blecher, declined to be interviewed. The reports said Olmert asked to see all of the evidence gathered by the committee, including the testimony of other cabinet ministers, to prepare his defense. Former defense minister Amir Peretz also asked to testify before the committee again and, in the meantime, to see the evidence gathered by the committee regarding his performance and to question witnesses before the panel. Meanwhile, in response to a query from the Post, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said he had not yet considered the question of whether he would defend the Winograd Committee against a petition submitted on Wednesday by the defense section of the IDF Advocate-General's Office. The petitioners are demanding that the committee issue letters of caution to all those who stand to be harmed by its findings and allow them to review the material gathered by the committee and question witnesses. These rights are all included in a law governing independent state commissions of inquiry. The Winograd Committee is not an independent judicial commission of inquiry, but rather a government-appointed committee of examination, and the law does not detail its powers and obligations. The army, representing all soldiers or officers who stand to be hurt by the committee's findings, argued that Mazuz promised the High Court of Justice that the committee would grant rights "similar" to those accorded in the State Commission of Investigation Law. The Winograd Committee maintains that it has kept Mazuz's decision. Even before the court gets to rule on the petition, the attorney-general will have to hand down his own "ruling" by determining whether he will defend it, thereby declaring that it has fulfilled his promise, or not, and thereby declaring that in his opinion, it has not. The court ruled on Thursday that the petition will be heard no later than mid-September before a panel of three justices.

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