Former state attorney Shai Nitzan has hit back at claims of misconduct made by a recently dismissed senior police officer, asserting that they were motivated by animus and political aspirations.
Moshe Saada, the former deputy head of the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, alleged earlier this week that top members of the country’s legal establishment, including Nitzan, ignored misconduct by the then-police chief due to fears it would damage efforts to prosecute former Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking to Channel 12 news on Saturday, Nitzan said Saada had been looking to take revenge on him for years.
“Until 2018, our relationship was excellent. In 2018, he ran for the position of PIID chief and I, along with a whole committee, did not choose him, and since then he vowed to take revenge — that’s what people tell me he said,” Nitzan told the network.
Nitzan said that several weeks before he retired in 2019, he was told that Saada was “badmouthing” him, saying he would take revenge, and also that Saada got involved in Likud political activities including trying to convince people in the Justice Ministry to vote for Netanyahu’s party.
“I summoned him and hoped he would deny it. He came to my room and I said to him ‘Tell me, are you badmouthing me’? He told me ‘yes.’ I asked him ‘Is it true that you are trying to convince people to vote for Likud?’ He told me ‘Yes, what is the problem?'” Nitzan said.
In a Monday interview on the same channel, Saada said that former police chief Roni Alsheich tampered with his unit’s investigation into the fatal police shooting of a Bedouin man — Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an — so that the findings would be consistent with the commissioner’s initial announcement that the victim had been a terrorist who sought to run over officers at the scene.
Saada told Channel 12 that Nitzan recognized that there had been no terror attack in Umm al-Hiran and had been willing to acknowledge this behind closed doors but did not act against Alsheich.
Hours after the interview aired, reports emerged that Saada was actively considering running in a right-wing political party in the coming November election.
“It is not fair to present him as a person who has no interests,” Nitzan said, referring to the reports of Saada entering politics. “If the public knows that this is a person who has personal interests of revenge and political interests, that’s perfectly fine.”
The former senior police officer described Nitzan as smart and sharp but also as someone who was willing to sacrifice truth and justice in order to reach certain political goals.
“[They had] one sole consideration: the Netanyahu cases, which at that time became the most important thing,” Saada said. Saada argued that because Alsheich’s police were investigating then-prime minister Netanyahu in a series of corruption probes, the country’s top legal officials were willing to overlook transgressions on the part of the police chief amid fears that damage to the commissioner’s credibility would harm their case against the premier.
Nitzan denied his allegations, which were related to a leaked email from 2018 in which the state attorney wrote that highlighting differences between the state attorney’s office and the police “will only do good for those who want to do evil to the law enforcement system” — a seeming reference to attacks by the prime minister and his supporters on the criminal justice system amid the investigations against him.
“Internal correspondence between myself and PIID executives was leaked to Amit Segal,” Nitzan told Channel 12, referring to the journalist who also conducted the interview with Saada.
“I wonder who leaked it at the time,” he said, indicating he believed it had been Saada.
“In the correspondence, things were said that [Saada] interpreted as [being related to] Netanyahu. A complaint was filed about this to David Rosen, a respected district judge and the prosecutor’s office’s ombudsman. In his decision, he determined that these things had nothing to do with Netanyahu’s cases. I’m not saying this — the ombudsman is,” Nitzan said.
The State Prosecutors Office on Friday similarly also denied Saada’s claims in a statement, the Haaretz daily reported. That included a claim that Alsheich backed the former head of the Lahav 433 anti-graft unit head, Roni Rittman, amid significant allegations of sexual harassment. Rittman’s unit was investigating Netanyahu.
Saada was removed from his post earlier this year by the current head of the Internal Investigations Department, Keren Bar Menachem. In 2018, Bar Menachem was appointed to head the unit, beating out Saada who had been serving as acting chief for over a year.