Mazuz: Friedmann seeking revenge

Follows justice minister's request for gov't c'tee to probe prosecution's role in Ramon bugging affair.

Mazuz Friedmann 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Mazuz Friedmann 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz accused Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann on Thursday of being motivated by a desire for revenge, in asking the cabinet to appoint a government committee of examination into the prosecution's role in the Ramon wiretapping affair. Friedmann's new request for a government committee of examination applies only to the conduct of the state prosecution. An earlier version, submitted on June 11, called for an examination of the role of both the police and the prosecution. The dispute between Friedmann and Mazuz is related to the failure of the police to hand over transcripts of three phone conversations conducted, and one SMS text message sent by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief, Shula Zaken. The police briefly suspected that Zaken was trying to persuade the woman soldier whom Ramon had forcibly kissed not to complain to the police. Ramon was subsequently convicted of committing an indecent act. In a letter to the cabinet ministers containing his comments on the items up for discussion in next Sunday's cabinet meeting, Mazuz wrote, "For the first time in the history of the state, the government, a political body, is being asked to appoint a committee to examine the conduct of the law enforcement system regarding an investigation against a senior minister, a close friend and political partner of the prime minister, who was unanimously convicted and did not appeal his conviction. "Furthermore, the initiative to appoint the government committee of examination comes from the minister of justice, who was appointed to his office against the backdrop of the stinging criticism he leveled against the law enforcement system regarding that very affair." "Is it just by coincidence?" continued Mazuz. "Is there no connection to the identities of those involved? Can the public believe that this request is not motivated by revenge against the law enforcement system and that only, as it were, the desire to investigate the error that occurred is what motivates the initiators?" Mazuz's attack came after a renewed request by Friedmann to appoint a government committee of examination into the Ramon wiretapping affair. This time, however, Friedmann is not asking that the committee investigate the police because he does not have the authority to do so. Instead, the proposal reads, "The committee will examine the conduct of law enforcement officials within the area of responsibility of the minister of justice regarding the investigation of Vice Premier Haim Ramon, and specifically the following: The decision-making process leading to the wiretapping and the way the matter was presented before the president of Tel Aviv District Court, Judge Uri Goren. Secondly, the failure to hand over the results of the wiretapping to the defense and failure to transfer other material that might have helped the defense." Friedman's original motion was supposed to have been put to a vote on June 22. However, it did not appear on the cabinet's agenda that day and Labor Party officials, who opposed it said they had blocked it. In the meantime, it became clear to Friedmann that he could not ask the ministers to appoint a committee to examine the conduct of those who do not fall under his responsibilities as minister of justice. The man who could have ordered a committee to examine the police, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, strongly opposes such an examination. So Friedmann had to limit the proposal. He has recommended that retired judge Dan Bein head the committee, flanked by Prof. Aharon Enkar and attorney Dan Avi-Yitzhak. According to the new proposal, the committee of examination would be given the powers of a state commission of inquiry and could make personal recommendations regarding those involved. Friedmann met with Labor ministers two weeks ago and tried to persuade them to support it. However, party leader Ehud Barak refused. He said he would not allow a situation to come about in which the government investigated the police, describing it as "a disruption off proper administrative procedures." On Thursday, MK Ami Ayalon (Labor), the minister in charge of national civilian service, rejected Friedmann's latest proposal. "The Labor Party," he wrote, "will oppose the intervention by politicians in the examination procedure both in the Knesset and the cabinet. No one is above the law or above investigation, but, especially now, the only person who can investigate the matter objectively and independently is the state comptroller." Meanwhile, Mazuz pointed out that during Ramon's trial, the court made it clear that the wiretapped conversations had no impact on the substance of the charge against Ramon. Furthermore, the court said in its verdict that the problem that needed to be looked into was why the transcripts had not been handed over to Ramon's lawyers, and not, as Friedmann's proposal called for, "the entire conduct of the law enforcement officials in the Ramon case." Mazuz wrote that he had appointed former judge Shalom Brenner to investigate the problem and that he had concluded there was negligence but not maliciousness in the failure of the police to hand over the transcripts. Mazuz also rejected Friedmann's claim that Brenner did not have the tools to conduct a proper examination. "When Brenner did not reach the conclusions that Friedmann was looking for, the minister decided that the examination was insufficient," Mazuz wrote. Friedmann then appointed another retired judge, Vardi Zeiler, to examine Brenner's findings. Mazuz said that Zeiler did not speak to anyone from the police or the prosecution during his investigation. On the other hand, he was given a detailed letter from Ramon's lawyers, including all the allegations they had raised. Zeiler said that neither he nor Brenner could get to the bottom of the issue and that a government committee of examination was required. But Mazuz pointed out that Zeiler felt such a committee was necessary primarily to examine the conduct of the police rather than the state prosecution. Mazuz added that if Ramon believed the police had deliberately wiretapped Zaken and then failed to hand over the transcripts to Ramon's lawyers in order to guarantee his conviction, this was a criminal matter and his lawyers should file a criminal complaint.