Likud’s bad boy MK Oren Hazan facing assault charges
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Likud’s bad boy MK Oren Hazan facing assault charges

Lawmaker denies he attacked Ariel mayor in 2014, says case 'built on foundation of lies and political rivalry'

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

MK Oren Hazan attends at a State Control Committee meeting on the subject of force-feeding prisoners who are on hunger strikes, at the Knesset on June 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
MK Oren Hazan attends at a State Control Committee meeting on the subject of force-feeding prisoners who are on hunger strikes, at the Knesset on June 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The attorney general’s office said Tuesday it would hold a hearing for controversial Likud lawmaker Oren Hazan before deciding whether to press charges in an assault case dating back some two years, prior to his election to the Knesset.

“Before deciding to press charges, the suspect has been summoned for a hearing,” a statement from the courts said. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will then decide whether to indict Hazan.

Hazan is suspected of assaulting a senior official in the municipality of the West Bank town of Ariel in 2014 in an apparent dispute over a debt. After the city froze his bank account, Hazan went to the office, where he cursed and pushed the municipal director, the statement said.

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 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 June 2015, a number of women told the Israeli media that Hazan sexually harassed them when they worked for him at a bar several years earlier.

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 vehemently denied the allegations, which he claimed were baseless.

“I have no doubt in my heart that when the case reaches the attorney general… he will order it to be shelved for lack of guilt,” Hazan wrote on his Facebook page at the time.

“This [assault] case — in which I made the first complaint — is built on a foundation of lies and political rivalry. I believe that judicial officials will not drag this out into a media carnival and a campaign of incitement against me,” he continued.

Hazan has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.

Last week 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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