'No one immune from criminal interrogation, trial'

Justice minister responds to MKs questions over case of judge suspected of child abuse.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Knesset)
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Knesset)
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman responded on Wednesday to tough questioning about the delay in interrogating a senior judge accused of beating his children in the Knesset, saying “in the State of Israel there is equality before the law and no person is immune from a criminal interrogation and being brought to trial.”
Likud Beytenu MK Orly Levy- Abecassis had raised the issue with Neeman following reports and confirmation from Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein that Weinstein had held up interrogation of the judge despite police requests.
Levy-Abecassis asked Neeman two questions. First: “Is a judge who is suspected of grave actions immune before the law?” Then: “Would it not be a good idea with offenses of this kind not to permit any discretion to push off the interrogation [of the judge] and to take authority away from the attorney- general in cases of family violence?”
Neeman rejected Levy- Abecassis’s second question, stating that “in certain instances, the law requires approval of the attorney-general, according to the decisions of the legislature. After weighing the balance of the circumstances, the attorney-general decided to order the interrogation of the judge under oath.”
He added, “The independence of the judicial authorities is a foundation stone for the existence of a Jewish and democratic state.”
Despite his defense of judicial independence, Neeman left open the idea of legislative reform, saying that after the investigation is complete, it might be worth looking into separating the power of giving the state executive legal advice from the power to decide whether to bring ministers and senior government workers to trial.
Meanwhile, police chief Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino on Wednesday said police had almost completed the investigation of the senior judge, Israel Radio reported.
Danino added that the investigation had taken too long and should be sped up.
He also said the judge had cooperated fully with investigators, according to the report.
The head of the police investigations branch, Asst.-Ch. Yoav Segalovich, issued a request for the judge’s interrogation to the attorney-general’s office two years ago, but Weinstein only ordered the interrogation when the story became public last week.
Weinstein explained that he had delayed an interrogation as he was unsure if it was best for the family and the children as a whole.
Still, Weinstein publicly conceded that the extent of the delay, a few years, was a failure by his office.
Media reports indicated that one reason for the delay was that the attorney handling the case was on extended maternity leave and no other attorney was assigned to take it over.
The story became public partially because new allegations had surfaced that following an initial round of beating his children and committing to refrain from doing so in the future, the judge had started to beat them again.
On Tuesday the judge was investigated by Tel Aviv police, and released a few hours later, said the report.
At this point the police will meet with representatives of the State Attorney’s Office to decide if any new evidence needs to be collected or if the case can be submitted to Weinstein for a final decision as to whether to file an indictment.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.