Police fume at Friedmann plan to probe Ramon wiretap foul-ups

Officials quoted as accusing justice minister of trying to "terrorize" the police.

ramon haim 298 88 ch2 (photo credit: Channel 2)
ramon haim 298 88 ch2
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Police reacted furiously on Thursday to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's proposal to set up a government committee to examine alleged foul-ups in the police wiretapping of conversations linked to the investigation of Deputy Premier Haim Ramon. Ramon was investigated and later indicted and convicted of forcibly kissing a female soldier. He stepped down from the post of justice minister while the investigation was underway. Anonymous police sources were quoted as accusing Friedmann of trying to "terrorize" the police. "Suspects are turning into prosecutors, and the investigators are turning into the investigated," one source was quoted as saying on the NRG website . In March, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter vowed that "no committee would be set up to investigate the Ramon wiretapping case." He said there had already been two examinations of the affair and that another inquiry today would be superfluous. During his trial in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, Ramon learned that the police had wiretapped the telephones of three witnesses, Shula Zaken, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief, the woman soldier who complained against Ramon and her commanding officer. Police and prosecution had failed to hand over the transcripts of wiretapped conversations that had bearing on the case and could have served Ramon's lawyer, Dan Scheinemann, during his cross-examination of the woman who had complained. Even though the court convicted Ramon, it sharply criticized the police for not handing over the transcripts to his lawyers. After the trial, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz appointed retired judge Shalom Brenner to look into the matter. Brenner, working by himself and without subpoena powers, concluded that the police had been guilty of gross negligence but had not acted maliciously. Ramon and his new lawyer, Nevot Tel-Tzur, were dissatisfied with the outcome and pressed Friedmann to investigate the matter further. The justice minister appointed another retired judge, Vardi Zeiler, to study Brenner's report. Zeiler found more problems in the conduct of the police and recommended that Friedmann appoint a government committee with powers to investigate the affair. On Wednesday, Friedmann decided to do so. According to his proposal, which is scheduled to be discussed by the cabinet a week from this coming Sunday, the committee will investigate why the police and prosecution decided to wiretap the phones of Zaken and the two soldiers, and what material they presented to Tel Aviv District Court President Uri Goren when they asked for permission to do so. The committee will also investigate why the material was not handed over to Ramon's lawyers. The committee, according to Friedmann's proposals, will be headed by retired judge Dan Bein and include retired attorney Dan Avi-Yitzhak and Professor Aharon Enkar. According to the proposal, the committee will reach conclusions about the handling of the wiretapping and will reach personal recommendations as well as recommendations as to how to improve the system. Friedmann asked the government to grant the committee all the powers of a judicial commission of inquiry including the right to summon witnesses, to investigate them, to issue letters of caution and to grant immunity to witnesses and accept information given anonymously. In his explanatory preface to the proposal, Friedmann pointed out that in January 2007 Mazuz prevented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from appointing a government committee like the one the justice minister seeks to establish now. Mazuz said at the time that the foul-up in the Ramon case was a one-time incident and there was no indication it was symptomatic of deeper problems. Meanwhile, Labor Party leader Ehud Barak announced that he opposed the appointment of a committee and would not allow a situation to develop in which the government investigated the police. The state prosecution did not comment on Friedmann's proposal. However, last week, State Attorney Moshe Lador strongly opposed the establishment of such a committee during a meeting of the Knesset Law Committee. Lador said the most he would agree to would be an investigation by the Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department.