A-G, Danino back Lador against resignation calls

Following Olmert acquittal, Weinstein dubs "personal attacks" on state attorney dangerous.

July 11, 2012 19:55
State Attorney Moshe Lador [file]

lador court 370. (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)


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On Wednesday evening, a day after the court exonerated former prime minister Ehud Olmert on two of three corruption charges leveled against him, the attorney-general and the police inspector-general expressed support for State Attorney Moshe Lador.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and Inspector-General Yohanan Danino spoke out after a day in which senior jurists and political reformers called for Lador’s resignation.

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Danino said Lador was a “devoted lawyer” who had an impressive career and called for the criticism of him to stop, saying it would undermine the prosecution and its leader.

Meanwhile, in a letter to state prosecutors, Weinstein described as dangerous the “unbridled personal attacks against prosecutors who did their duties professionally, with integrity and fearlessly.”

“Such is State Attorney Moshe Lador, as are the other lawyers who worked on this case,” Weinstein wrote, noting that he had previously been one of Olmert’s legal counsel and would not comment on the court ruling itself.

“Such personal attacks endanger the public prosecution, without whose principle there will be no rule of law. This must never happen,” the attorney-general wrote.

Weinstein said that even when cases against public figures resulted in a full or partial acquittal, the prosecution would “not relinquish our constant struggle that Israel should be a lawful country.”

He added: “There is one law for the common people and for the highest in the land.”

Weinstein concluded that “on this day, as on every day, it is right that each of us holds his head high, because he belongs to a prosecution that is good, proper and fair.”

Among those calling for Lador’s resignation on Wednesday was Israel Democracy Institute president Dr. Arye Carmon, who said the state attorney’s decision to hold a preliminary hearing for Olmert in 2009 had ousted a prime minister at a crucial time in the state’s history.

Olmert was forced to step down as prime minister over allegations that he had received “cash envelopes” from New York businessman Moshe Talansky, which he dismissed at the time as “delusional.”

“The decision to investigate a democratically elected prime minister first impinged his ability to govern and later forced him to resign, against the will of the people,” Carmon told The Jerusalem Post.

Carmon said the two main “gatekeepers of the state” – Lador and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss – had exceeded their powers, turning themselves into “official vetoes” of the Israeli democratic process.

He added that Lador had received a “slap in the face” on Tuesday when the court ruled to acquit Olmert on the Talansky and Rishon Tours charges.

While the State Attorney’s Office employed hundreds of dedicated, hardworking lawyers, Carmon said there was a problem with its leadership, adding that while the office “needed a shake-up,” Lador was “too narrow-minded” to resign.

“Unfortunately, Lador does not understand the basics of democracy,” Carmon said. “It’s true that the rule of law is one of the major pillars of democracy. But for Lador, it is the only pillar and he holds onto it exclusively. As a result democracy suffers.”

The State Attorney’s Office needs a leader who can “see the bigger picture and bring some balance,” he added.

Carmon said he did not support calls for an independent committee to be established that would investigate the prosecution’s actions, saying that such an investigation was not necessary.

Also on Wednesday, former justice minister Amnon Rubinstein joined calls for Lador to resign in the wake of the court’s almost total exoneration of Olmert.

Rubinstein also told Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet channel that the prosecution must now undertake substantial reforms, including appointing an ombudsman to deal with complaints against the State Attorney’s Office, with serious cases being investigated by a judge.

The outcome of the trial against the former prime minister has also sent shock waves through the legal community.

Israel Bar Association head attorney Doron Barzilay called on the attorney-general, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Lador to establish an independent committee to examine the prosecution’s conduct regarding Olmert.

“As the head of the Bar Association, I am greatly concerned at the calls by the public and by the media against the State Attorney’s Office,” Barzilay said in a letter sent on Wednesday to Weinstein, Lador and Neeman.

The Bar Association leader called for an independent committee to examine the circumstances surrounding Olmert’s being brought to trial, including the prosecution’s conduct and decision-making throughout that legal process.

Barzilay also noted that the allegations against Olmert had led to a prime minister being removed from office without an election – and that Olmert had now been cleared of those allegations – but did not call for Lador to step down from his post. Instead, he said that an external audit could restore public confidence in the prosecution.

“We cannot ignore the strong feelings of the public, and also the media, who see in this case conduct unbecoming of our law enforcement agencies,” Barzilay added, saying that the public outcry in the wake of the court ruling “reflected citizens’ crisis of confidence in the prosecution and the police.”

Lador announced on Tuesday evening that he would not step down. The state attorney rejected arguments that the prosecution failed in the Olmert case. Lador said that even though the trial ended in acquittal on the main charges, it did not mean that there should never have been an indictment.

Similarly, prosecuting attorney Uri Korb – who last July sparred bitterly with Olmert during the latter’s cross-examination – also spoke out in defense of the prosecution, telling Channel 10 news that the state attorney had acted correctly in indicting Olmert.

Amid the heated criticisms of Lador and the prosecution, however, there were also calls to the contrary. On Wednesday morning, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) called for the “wild assaults” on the prosecution to stop.

“This is a lynch in the town square by interested parties who want a weak State Attorney’s Office, one that is submissive and obsequious to the powerful and the wealthy,” Horowitz said.

He added: “Terrorizing the State Attorney’s Office poses a real threat to the rule of law in Israel.”

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