Mazuz: Prime minister need not stand down

The Attorney-General has informed Att. Yossi Fuchs that the law does not oblige PM Olmert to suspend himself on account of the investigation against him.

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz has informed Attorney Yossi Fuchs that the law does not oblige Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to suspend himself as a result of the opening of a police investigation against him, the Justice Ministry said Thursday. In a letter sent to Fuchs by Mazuz aide Attorney Eyal Yinon, Mazuz added that he would consider prohibiting Olmert from carrying out some action "if it should turn out that there is a connection between the action or the exercise of a specific prerogative of the prime minister and the investigation being conducted against him." On Wednesday, Fuchs asked Mazuz to order Olmert to suspend himself and referred to examples in which the attorney-general had imposed constraints on cabinet ministers because of investigations they were undergoing. One of the examples was former Justice Minister Haim Ramon, whom Mazuz barred from carrying out certain duties such as granting pardons or appointing judges while the investigation was under way. Fuchs also wrote that Mazuz had expressed his opinion in public that President Moshe Katsav should suspend himself because of his public role while being investigated by police. He said Mazuz had written that the reason he could not order Katsav to suspend himself was because the law did not give him legal authority over the president. However, Fuchs continued, Mazuz, as government legal adviser, allegedly did have the authority to suspend Olmert. In his reply, Mazuz said that "neither the law nor custom obliges the prime minister at this stage to suspend himself." In his letter, Fuchs said he would petition the High Court of Justice if Mazuz turned down his request. In a related development, Mazuz told Aryeh Avineri, chairman of the watchdog organization Ometz, that Police Inspector-General Moshe Karadi had taken steps to prevent his lawyer, Eli Zohar, from being caught in a conflict of interests. Zohar also represents Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the investigation of the allegations against him regarding the Bank Leumi tender. Mazuz told Avineri that Karadi had instructed the head of the Intelligence and Investigation Branch, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, not to discuss the Olmert investigation with him.