Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res) Gabi Ashkenazi.
(photo credit: ELI MANDELBAUM)
Former IDF spokesman Brig.- Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu and Col. (res.) Erez Winner, who served as assistant to former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, were released from police custody on Thursday evening to five days house arrest.
They are also banned from leaving Israel and making conduct with other people involved in the case, police said.
Police investigations of the Harpaz Affair will in the coming days focus mainly on the suspects already arrested this week, police said Thursday.
The statement was made in response to speculation that the investigation will now focus on Ashkenazi, or that Ashkenazi himself could be brought in for questioning or arrested.
On Wednesday, Benayahu and Winner were arrested and ordered kept in custody until Thursday night for their alleged role in the affair.
Benayahu and Winner stand accused of destroying documents, obstruction of justice, and of holding and disseminating classified documents without approval. Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz himself was also arrested this week but was released later that same day to 10 days house arrest.
Benayahu’s lawyer Zion Amir said his client was happy to finally be getting the chance to tell his side of the story and happy to answer all questions, having nothing to hide.
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He added that Benayahu was an innocent bystander caught up in the crossfire between Ashkenazi and then-defense minister Ehud Barak on a range of issues.
Police on Thursday highlighted the complexity of the investigation, code-named “404.” They said so far they’ve questioned over 400 people and there are more than 1,000 recordings included in the investigative material. They added that the suspects in the case have still not seen the evidence against them, which is still covered under a gag order.
The Harpaz Affair refers to an alleged 2010 plot by Harpaz and possibly others to illegally undermine Barak’s choice to succeed Ashkenazi as IDF chief, as part of a more general battle between Barak and Ashkenazi involving both sides allegedly spying on and spreading misinformation about the other.
The fallout from the affair, if it leads to an indictment against Ashkenazi, still considered quite uncertain, could cause the downfall of a man who was one of the most popular IDF chiefs of staff in recent memory, and who has been considered a potential future prime minister.
On the other hand, many say that if Ashkenazi is not indicted, he will remain in a strong future political position.
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