Police question two over threats against attorney general
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Police question two over threats against attorney general

Lawyer for suspect says client was involved in ‘legitimate criticism’; Ya’alon places blame on ‘messengers’ of Netanyahu

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit holds a press conference at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, announcing his decision that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases, November 21, 2019. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit holds a press conference at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, announcing his decision that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases, November 21, 2019. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Two people were questioned Thursday by police in connection with death threats and other harassing messages sent to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has come under fire for pursuing criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two were questioned by the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit.

A lawyer representing one of the suspects said his client was involved with legitimate criticism of the attorney general.

“The leaky police are trying to silence legitimate criticism. My client did not threaten or harass Mandelblit — she asked citizens to contact him and demand answers from him. A person with power like Mandelblit must give the public answers,” Yitzchak Bam told the Kan public broadcaster.

Mandelblit filed a police complaint a day earlier regarding the threats.

A statement from the Justice Ministry said Mandelblit had provided testimony to police investigators and that the messages, many of which were sent to the attorney general’s cellphone over the past day, appeared to be part of an organized campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

“This harassment and threats, which were apparently organized, continued throughout the night and morning. The harassment includes threats, derisive statements and incitement,” the statement said.

The ministry did not indicate who may have been behind the harassment.

Among the messages sent to Mandelblit were “You and your family will die,” “You should kill yourself” and “We’ll get to you and your kids,” as well as a photo of him in a Nazi uniform, Channels 12 and 13 reported. He was also sent a clip of a coffin being carried, the report said.

According to the report, officials believed the messages are tied to a protest scheduled to take place near Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva over the weekend against his decision to press charges against Netanyahu in three criminal cases.

Mandelblit has also come under fire over the last several days after a journalist broke a gag order to raise questions about Mandelblit’s conduct in the so-called Harpaz affair, a 2010 scandal in which he was briefly suspected of having helped military brass cover up a smear campaign. The case against him was later dropped.

On Saturday, Likud minister Yoav Gallant, another player in the scandal, said that “Mandelblit … owes the public an explanation.”

Mandelblit had already been a popular target for supporters of the prime minister over the filing of the indictments last year, which Netanyahu has decried as an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the media, the opposition, the police and the state prosecution, led by Mandelblit.

Illustrative — Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva, October 29, 2019. (Flash90)

The trial of Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, is set to begin May 24.

Police have previously investigated alleged harassment of Mandelblit, and in 2018 his father’s grave was defaced.

Moshe Ya’alon holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 26, 2020. (Elad Gutman/Blue and White)

Yesh Atid-Telem’s Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday that the attacks originated with “messengers” of Netanyahu, without clarifying if he was claiming the death threats themselves came from the prime minister’s associates.

“We’ve become used to hearing that the attorney general is under attack,” he told Army Radio. “It’s obvious that it is by Netanyahu’s messengers.”

He added: “I know the people who attack Mandelblit. The one allegedly nurturing them is Netanyahu.”

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