The attorney general’s office said Tuesday it had decided to indict controversial Likud lawmaker Oren Hazan for an assault case dating back some three years, prior to his election to the Knesset.
Hazan is suspected of assaulting the mayor of Ariel in the West Bank in 2014 in an apparent dispute over a debt.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced he had informed Hazan of the indictment for assaulting a civil servant and a misdemeanor in a public space. He told the MK he has 30 days to request parliamentary immunity, should he wish to do so.
“In accordance with the provisions of Section 4 (a) (2) of the Knesset members Immunity Law, their rights and duties, MK Hazan has 30 days to request that the Knesset determine that he will have immunity from criminal proceedings,” Mandelblit said.
According to the indictment, Hazan’s mother had her bank account frozen for failing to pay property tax for eight years on a restaurant owned by the family in Ariel.
Hazan allegedly went to the municipality and passed from office to office to find the person responsible for freezing the account.
He then allegedly shouted and cursed the mayor, Eliyahu Shaviro, grabbed him and shoved him into a railing. The mayor tried to get away and enter a conference room, but Hazan followed him, closed the door behind him and said, “No one is leaving here,” the indictment said. Hazan also allegedly cursed him, refused to leave his office and told him he would “take care of him” and make sure he did not remain in office.
Hazan’s lawyers said Monday that they were disappointed by the indictment, and felt the case should have been dropped.
“We received with pain, disappointment and even amazement the attorney general’s decision to indict MK Hazan for a spat between two politicians that happened many years ago, long before his election to the Knesset,” his lawyers said. “We had thought that the case would be shelved… since it had gone untouched for so long.”
Each side filed a complaint against the other, but after Hazan won a Knesset seat in the March 2015 elections, the case was transferred from the Samaria police department to the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit, and police required approval by the attorney general to proceed with the investigation.
Mandelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, gave police the go-ahead in June 2015 after a series of allegations were made against Hazan over his behavior before he entered the Knesset.
In September 2015, police said that an investigation found there was “evidential basis” supporting allegations that Hazan had assaulted a civil servant and conducted a misdemeanor in a public space.
Hazan has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.
In December 2016 he had his driver’s license suspended for traveling at a speed of over 140 kilometers per hour (over 87 mph) on Route 90, where the limit is 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph).
In October, a Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court judge said Hazan had used hard drugs while serving as a casino manager in Bulgaria before being elected to the Knesset, rejecting the bulk of a libel lawsuit brought by Hazan against a reporter from Channel 2 news.
Judge Azaria Alcalay ruled that a June 2015 investigative report claiming Hazan had hired prostitutes for his friends and used hard drugs while managing a Burgas casino in 2013 amounted to “responsible, serious journalism and reflected the reality as it was.”
Hazan had sought NIS 1 million (some $260,000) in damages from Channel 2 reporter Amit Segal, claiming the allegations were false and constituted libel.
In his ruling, Alcalay said that evidence brought before the court by two witnesses, named in the ruling as Eviatar and Avi, proved that Hazan had indeed taken crystal meth. He said that it could not be proved that Hazan provided prostitutes to friends or customers of the casino but that he was convinced Segal had sufficient evidence to be protected under freedom of the press.
In December, the Knesset Ethics Committee also suspended Hazan from participating in parliamentary debates for a month, due to a series of complaints against him.
In February, Hazan was again suspended from the committee hearings, this time by his own Likud party after he skipped a plenum vote resulting in a loss for the party.
And a 2015 state comptroller report on party spending during primary campaigns said Hazan failed to report his expenditure and accused him of lying in an affidavit declaring his expenses, a crime that can carry up to a three-year custodial sentence.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.