Former Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir harshly criticized on Monday the proposed appointment of Israel Prisons Service Chief Warden Yaakov Ganot in place of Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi as the head of the Israel. Zamir, who was one of the Supreme Court justices who acquitted Ganot in December 1996 on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, made his comments during an interview with Israel Radio.
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Zamir said that even though Ganot was acquitted because of a reasonable doubt, this did not guarantee that his conduct as a police officer was without blemish.
"The verdict that absolved him shows a dishonest person, a person who could not lead a pure and incorrupt police," Zamir said. "[Ganot] is the last person who should be chief of police. One must read the verdict to understand the personality of the man."
Zamir labeled Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's decision to appoint Ganot a "hasty, irresponsible proposal." He stressed that while Dichter could recommend an appointee, the government still has to approve or reject his recommendations.
Also on Monday, the watchdog organization 'Ometz' submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice challenging the appointment of Ganot
The petition requested that the court instruct Dichter to explain the reasoning behind his appointment, and to issue an interlocutory order that would prevent the appointment until the court had a chance to decide on the petition.
In explaining its opposition to the appointment, the petition cited Ganot's trial. Although a majority of the judges hearing the case cleared Ganot due to reasonable doubt, the petition emphasized that one of the justices felt that Ganot should have been convicted of breach of trust.
In addition, the petition claimed that the appointment was simply unreasonable.
"It is not reasonable to nominate to the position of chief of Israel Police a person who was cleared of wrongdoing solely on the basis of reasonable doubt," the petition read.
Earlier Monday, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz criticized Dichter's decision to appoint Ganot.
In a letter to Dichter, Mazuz cited the accusations against Ganot from his trial. Ganot was later cleared of all allegations in both the District and Supreme Courts.
Despite the acquittal, Mazuz said, "the State Prosecutor at the time, Edna Arbel, sought to discharge Ganot, who was serving as the Northern District commander."
Mazuz also mentioned that although there was no way to officially prevent Ganot's appointment, it would be difficult to defend such an appointment if it came before the High Court.
On Sunday, Dichter got the last word following the release of the Zeiler Commission's final report, shocking many both inside and outside the law enforcement community by naming Ganot as the 16th head of the Israel Police.
Dichter's announcement came after Karadi dropped a bombshell of his own by announcing his resignation 90 minutes before Dichter's scheduled press conference.
The earthquake that was expected to shake the police following the release of the commission's report came quickly, as less than eight hours after it was published, both Karadi and his deputy, Cmdr. Benny Kaniak, found themselves off the force.
Less than two hours after Karadi resigned, Dichter confirmed what many had already believed - that he had been planning Karadi's dismissal, and that the top cop's announcement had merely given him a head start on what was going to happen anyway.
If anyone thought Karadi had stolen the minister's thunder, Dichter quickly proved otherwise. "In order to stabilize the police establishment, I have decided to replace its leadership - the chief of police and the deputy chief of police," said Dichter during a press conference at the Internal Security Ministry, separated only by a parking lot from the police headquarters where Karadi had made his announcement.
The dismissal of Kaniak, who was not mentioned in the Zeiler report, was unexpected.
But Dichter was not done. After rumors in recent days that Dichter had turned to "outside" candidates to fill Karadi's position, including Yeruham Mayor and former OC Central Command Amram Mitzna, the former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head displayed once again his penchant for secrecy by announcing the appointment of Ganot, and that of police Cmdr. Mickey Levy as his deputy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the appointments of Ganot and Levy, saying he was confident they would effectively lead the police.
Olmert, who is reportedly friends with Levy from the days when he was mayor of Jerusalem and Levy was the capital's police chief, said Dichter had made the appointment and that he was not consulted about it beforehand.
Ganot, who is respected by ministry insiders, had a long police career before he left to take over the Prisons Service. But the decorated veteran also has a stumbling block standing between his nomination and the key to the police chief's office. It appeared Sunday night that Olmert had not yet okayed the appointment.
In 1994, while he commanded the police's Northern District, Ganot was put on trial for allegedly accepting bribes from the Tanus family of Nazareth. When the court absolved him of all charges, the District Attorney's Office appealed to the Supreme Court. He was restored to his position by then-internal security minister Avigdor Kahalani, but with the caveat that he not hold "central or command" positions. That warning was later disregarded by then-internal security minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who appointed Ganot to his current position.
A large part of the Zeiler inquiry centered around the personality of Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, a senior police officer in the Southern District, who was been accused of receiving bribes in exchange for aiding the Perinian family, and who was appointed to his position by Karadi, the Southern District commander at the time.
The commission also recommended that 25-year police veteran Jerusalem District head Cmdr. Ilan Franco not receive the position of chief of police in the coming round of nominations, a serious blow - but not necessarily a career ending one for a man whom Dichter said on Sunday night "is an excellent officer who does his work well and... whose future in the police is still open before him."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.