Eitan calls for government committee to probe Ramon wiretapping affair

MK Michael Eitan (Likud) on Monday called on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to appoint a government committee of investigation into the conduct of law enforcement officials in the wiretapping of conversations linked to the investigation of Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon. Eitan spoke during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of Investigation into Wiretapping, which was appointed following the Ramon investigation affair. Eitan is the chairman of the committee. The wiretapping took place after officials learned that Ramon had forcibly kissed a female IDF officer in the Prime Minister's Office in Tel Aviv on July 12, 2006. The prosecution failed to include the wiretapped conversations in the evidence that it handed over to Ramon's lawyer, Dan Scheinemann, and the fact of the police wiretap only came to light during the trial. Ramon and his new lawyer, Nevot Tel-Tzur, are demanding a comprehensive investigation of the affair. After Ramon's trial ended, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz appointed retired judge Shalom Brenner to look into the affair. Brenner concluded that the authorities had been guilty of severe negligence but not of malice. Ramon was not satisfied with Brenner's examination and complained to Friedmann and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. The two ministers asked retired judge Vardi Zeiler to study Brenner's report and present his conclusions. Zeiler submitted his report a few weeks ago. In it, he recommended that the ministers appoint a government committee of examination to conduct an intensive investigation armed with the authority to summon witnesses and other powers that Brenner did not have. Since then, Dichter has announced that he opposes appointing a government committee. Friedmann has declared that he is still considering the matter. According to Zeiler, Friedmann wants to appoint a government committee but does not want to have a fight with Dichter over the matter. According to Eitan, however, "It is inconceivable that the ministers of justice and public security who appointed Zeiler to look into the matter are not appointing the government committee that Zeiler recommended when there are suspicions and serious questions hovering over the affair. "The Knesset will betray its responsibilities if it does not insist on appointing a committee of examination. If the ministers fail to do so on their own initiative, it is possible I will ask for the intervention of the state comptroller." Zeiler told the committee that the head of the Police Intelligence and Investigations branch, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, had promised the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court which tried Ramon that he would conduct a "deep investigation" into the wiretapping affair. "No such investigation was conducted even though even more serious suspicions came to light after Danino gave his promise to the court," Zeiler told the parliamentary committee. According to Zeiler, many people were involved in one way or another with the wiretapping, including policemen who listened to the conversations and others who transcribed them. They were not questioned by Brenner. In fact, Brenner only met with two senior police officers and two senior prosecution officials, and called these meetings "conversations" rather than "investigations." "Ramon said that someone from within the police had told him he was ready to testify, but would only do so before a judicial commission of investigation," added Zeiler. "There is an obligation on the public to investigate what happened."