Ombudsman: Judiciary acted ‘improperly’ in failing to clear Mandelblit’s name

Ombudsman: Judiciary acted ‘improperly’ in failing to clear Mandelblit’s name

Complaints commissioner says failure to state reason behind shutting 2010 Harpaz case led to unwarranted stain on attorney general’s reputation

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A state prosecution ombudsman on Wednesday said there were no grounds to reexamine Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s role in the so-called Harpaz Affair, for which he was already cleared of any suspicion by Israel’s top court.

Justice David Rozen said police and prosecutors displayed “improper conduct” in their failure to declare that the case was shut due to an absence of guilt.

According to Hebrew media reports, Rozen said then-state prosecutor Shai Nitzan acted with a lack of transparency in the case, despite Mandelblit’s request to officially mark the reason for the closing of the probe into the affair a decade ago.

“This is not a technical matter. An open police case for serious offenses is, for many, a blemish,” said Rozen, who holds the position of ombudsman of the state representatives in the courts, according to the Walla news site. “It may provoke questions and thoughts that may damage his good name, as well as public trust.”

Rozen was responding to a complaint claiming Mandelblit’s case had been mishandled, and examining whether any information was hidden from officials who decided to close the investigation into the then-military advocate general.

Prosecution ombudsman retired justice David Rozen at a presentation of a report at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, March 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Mandelblit moved to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past months, his followers and supporters have attempted to discredit him by raising his role in the Harpaz Affair.

The affair resurfaced yet again in May after a journalist broke a gag order to raise questions about Mandelblit’s conduct in the 2010 scandal in which he was briefly suspected of having helped military brass cover up a smear campaign.

Prosecution officials have said in response to the journalist’s comments that the decision not to charge Mandelblit and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, then IDF chief of staff, in the affair — despite a police recommendation to do so — was made after an extensive review of many conversations between those involved.

Wednesday’s announcement came a day after Netanyahu launched a scathing, unprecedented attack against Mandelblit, whom he appointed and who served previously as his cabinet secretary, accusing him of being part of a deep-state conspiracy scheme aiming to oust him for political reasons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Mandelblit charged the incumbent premier with the bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges for which Netanyahu is currently on trial. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and he and his supporters allege a conspiracy by law enforcement and the media seeking to force him from power.

Netanyahu was slammed by his rivals over the accusations, which he made in a series of tweets and retweets, and a watchdog said it would file a police complaint for incitement.

Mandelblit earlier in the day told the Permits Committee at the State Comptroller’s Office that he opposed Netanyahu’s request to receive some NIS 10 million ($2.9 million) in outside funding for his legal defense in his corruption trial, saying the donation was tantamount to an illicit gift.

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