Lawyers: PMO staffer still does not wish to testify

A-G Weinstein will not ask police to continue investigations into allegations that PMO chief of staff harassed female staffer.

By
January 30, 2012 10:13
3 minute read.
Nathan Eshel

Nathan Eshel 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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The attorneys for “R.,” the young female staffer allegedly harassed by the Prime Minister’s Office’s chief of staff Natan Eshel, told the attorney- general on Monday that their client still does not wish to testify.

In a letter to Weinstein, attorneys Dr. Harel Arnon and Itzhak Bam said they regretted the attorney-general’s decision “not to honor the wishes of our client to refrain from testifying to the Civil Service Commission.”

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Arnon’s letter comes after Weinstein announced late Sunday evening that the Civil Service Commission’s Investigations Division will carry out a full investigation into allegations that Eshel harassed R. and intruded on her privacy.

The decision was made immediately after a meeting between Weinstein’s office and the Civil Service Commission, in which the attorney-general was updated regarding the progress of an initial inquiry into the allegations. As a result of that meeting, Weinstein said he will not ask the police to open a criminal investigation into the allegations, saying that there was “no justification to deviate from the accepted measures in this matter.”

In their letter to Weinstein on Monday, Arnon and Bam reiterated that R. considered the summons to testify about “allegations that have arisen regarding Eshel’s conduct” to be an “unnecessary injury to her privacy.”

Arnon and Bam told Weinstein that R. wished to clarify her position, which is that she continues to refuse to give testimony.

R. herself has not made any complaint against Eshel, and according to reports, the allegations were brought to the attention of the attorney-general by cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, communications director Yoaz Hendel and Maj.-Gen.



Yohanan Locker.

The letter to Weinstein came after the attorney-general said Sunday that R. would have to testify in the Civil Service Commission investigation, despite a request via her attorneys that she be permitted not to do so. Weinstein said that as a government employee, R. is compelled to report to the Civil Service Commission’s investigators.

R.’s attorneys also received notification from the Attorney- General’s Office on Sunday, stating that R. would have to give testimony. “This summons will not infringe on her privacy, dignity or basic rights,” Weinstein’s office told R.’s counsel.

After receiving that letter, R.’s attorneys said they are weighing whether to file a petition to the High Court of Justice over the matter.

On Monday morning, Yediot Aharonot reported that R. told her friends that she is reluctant to complain about Eshel because she fears that doing so could damage her future.

According to the report, R. told Prime Minister’s Office officials that Eshel was wellconnected and so could “close all doors to her.”

“I saw what happened to those who complained about Moshe Katsav. Who wants to hire them now?” the report said R. told her friends.

Meanwhile, in a Labor faction Knesset meeting Monday afternoon, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over reports that R. is afraid to testify, calling on him to “set a good example.”

“Where is [Netanyahu’s] leadership spirit?” Yacimovich asked. “I call on the prime minister to give up his passive approach and send a strong message encouraging the truth to come to light. It’s your office, under your command. This woman is afraid to testify. Tell her that it will be OK to testify and let the truth emerge.”

“Why is the underlying message that those who complained will be the ones to pay the price?” the Labor chairwoman asked. “In any other normal workplace, [the incident] would not have been passed over lightly, but in the Prime Minister’s Office, it was passed over lightly.”

Also on Monday, MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) called on State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to use the powers granted to him under the State Comptroller Law to issue R. with a protection order against any attempt to harm her if she gives testimony.

In her letter to Lindenstrauss, Gal-On wrote that “everything possible should be done to bring the facts to light without those involved feeling that their professional and personal futures are at risk.”

“This is especially true when it comes to complaints of sexual harassment, as recent history shows, because these complaints tend to get buried and not emerge because complainants fears of public exposure and abuse from their employers,” Gal-On said.

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