Justice minister rant on ‘biased’ prosecution seems partly taken from Wikipedia

In citing example of 2003 AG probe into leaked information from police investigation, Amir Ohana’s speech appears to repeat online encyclopedia almost verbatim

Justice Minister Amir Ohana delivers a statement to the press, at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, on October 29, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana delivers a statement to the press, at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, on October 29, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Part of Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s Tuesday attack on state prosecutors who operate under his purview, in which he accused them of blindly persecuting public officials they feel threaten their standing, appears to have been gleaned almost directly from an entry in Wikipedia.

Journalist Nitzan Livneh pointed out Wednesday how closely Ohana’s words matched those of text on the free-access online encyclopedia’s Hebrew page about an attorney who was prosecuted for leaking to the press information from a criminal investigation into former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003.

In total, from the Wikipedia passage of some 169 words, around 115 match those used by the justice minister during a press conference he held Tuesday.

Ohana, of the Likud party, was responding to a trio of investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as a new probe this week into possible harassing of a state’s witness by aides to the premier. He said he had sought to open a probe into the “hundreds of leaks” from the prime minister’s investigations, but was turned down amid “an utter refusal to find the truth.”

Ohana then gave an example of a previous incident in which an attorney general ordered a probe into leaks from a suspected bribery investigation into Sharon. The probe led to attorney Liora Glatt-Berkovitz admitting to leaking information on the eve of 2003 elections to harm Sharon’s campaign. Glatt-Berkovitz was later convicted in a plea bargain and sentenced to eight months in prison. The bribery investigation, which also focused on one of Sharon’s sons, Gilad, was eventually dropped in 2013.

During his speech, Ohana accused state prosecutors of going after public officials they feel threaten their standing, while being supported by a “cult” of fawning reporters.

He also appeared to allude to a so-called deep-state element within the system, saying “there is another prosecution — a prosecution within the prosecution. There are those who, alongside a small cult of court reporters, have managed to establish a perception that a war of light against darkness [is being waged].”

Responding to the minister’s accusations, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan said they “regret” his comments and “reject the attempt to cast aspersions on the work of police and prosecution officials without any factual basis.”

“The law enforcement system will not be dragged into the political sphere. No person will deter or dissuade us from the correct path,” Mandelblit and Nitzan said in a joint statement.

Netanyahu faces pending charges of fraud, breach of trust in three case, one of which also includes suspicions of bribery. The prime minister denies the allegations and claims to be the victim of a witch hunt involving the opposition, the media, the police and state prosecutors.

Earlier this month, Mandelblit’s office held a pre-indictment hearing for the premier, having previously announced his intention to charge him in all three cases. A final decision on whether to charge Netanyahu is expected to be made by the end of the year.

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