Ombudsman calls on AG to probe cops leaking contents of interrogations to press

Plea comes less than a day after Mandelblit rejects request from Netanyahu’s attorneys to investigate disclosures made to media regarding criminal cases against PM

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)

A state ombudsman on Tuesday called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal probe into police officers who repeatedly leaked to the media information regarding cases they had been investigating.

The plea came less than 24 hours after Mandelblit turned down a similar request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team. Attorneys Yossi Ashkenazi and Amit Hadad had called on the attorney general to subpoena anyone suspected of leaking information regarding the premier’s criminal cases to take a polygraph test in order to prosecute those responsible.

Audit Prosecution Commissioner David Rosen’s didn’t refer to the Netanyahu probes in his letter to Mandelblit, but rather other cases of alleged police misconduct, including one “intolerable” example in which an officer leaked a copy of an indictment that was later published on a news site before it was even filed in court.

“Leaks from interrogation rooms and the offices of state authorities have become a widespread phenomenon, and it would not be unfounded to claim that this is a blow [to the] state,” Rosen wrote.

Asked about the timing of Rosen’s letter, a Justice Ministry official said that it was released on Tuesday due to developments in the investigations at hand.

Judge David Rosen in a courtroom in the Tel Aviv District Court on April 29, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Rosen, who is a retired Tel Aviv District Court judge, wrote that the identity of the leaker is known, making such an investigation far more manageable.

But this would not appear to be the case for a probe into leaks from the Netanyahu investigations. Mandelblit told the prime minister’s attorneys on Monday that while he considers such leaks to be “severe,” there is no room to investigate them in the same manner. It would likely require having the suspects take polygraph tests, which can only be enforced for national security matters. Moreover, the attorney general said that such a probe could possibly infringe upon freedom of the press, by requiring journalists to reveal their sources.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who had also called to probe the leaks and who has criticized Mandelblit and prosecutors over their handling of the Netanyahu cases, slammed the attorney general’s decision as harming public confidence in the law enforcement establishment.

The prime minister is suspected of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, one of which also includes suspicion of bribery.

Pre-indictment hearings were held last month and Mandelblit is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to press charges in the cases by the end of the month or at the beginning of December.

Justice Minister Amir Ochana speaks at a Justice Ministry conference in Tel Aviv on November 4, 2019. (Flash90)

Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media, the left, police, and the state prosecution, designed to oust him from power.

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