ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Top prosecutor decries attacks on legal system: ‘The accused have become accusers’

Alluding to Netanyahu trial, Amit Aisman says threats against state attorneys and their families getting worse, warns of rise in violence if law enforcement cowed

Amit Aisman speaks during a ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
Amit Aisman speaks during a ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, June 28, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

State Attorney Amit Aisman directed barbed remarks at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, saying that “the accused have become the accusers,” while warning of the growing vilification of the state prosecution in public discourse.

“There is a feeling that there are those who seek to undermine our legitimacy in the eyes of the general public. Those who seek to attribute unseemly motives to our decisions and actions. [There is] a reality in which the suspect becomes the investigator of his investigators, the accused becomes the accuser, and the convicted become the victim of the system,” Aisman told a conference of the Israeli Association of Public Law.

Netanyahu has in recent years lashed out repeatedly at the justice system as he faces multiple accusations of corruption — for which a trial is ongoing — and his new government is now advancing radical judicial reform that will severely limit the power of the courts.

The prime minister faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies wrongdoing and says the charges were fabricated in a political coup led by the police and state prosecution, though he has provided no evidence for such extraordinary assertions.

Aisman also lamented the threats against law enforcement officials and witnesses in trials, as well as their families, which he said were getting increasingly worse.

“It seems that Israeli society is becoming more violent,” he said. “Recently, there have been attacks on the institutions of the state attorney and state prosecutors… Beyond the fact that these attacks are getting worse over the years — in terms of their quantity and intensity — they have recently been joined by personal attacks on specific prosecutors.”

Incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in his trial, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 31, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This offensive behavior does not stop in the courtroom, and of course expresses itself even more strongly on social networks,” he noted. “Social networks have long since become the new town square, where writers hiding behind a keyboard feel they can write anything they want, without limits.”

He cautioned that a reality in which prosecutors and witnesses are under constant personal attack will harm the justice system, reduce adherence to law enforcement and encourage growing violence.

Prosecutors and other officials involved in Netanyahu’s trial have long faced threats and harassment from supporters of the premier. Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in Netanyahu’s trial, reportedly considered quitting the position due to the wave of threats and vitriol directed at her by Netanyahu’s supporters since the trial began in 2020. Security around her was increased that summer after police reportedly received intelligence that threats had become more serious.

In the most recent reported incident, Ben-Ari last month filed an incitement complaint to police over threats by a Likud operative against her son.

Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari arrives for a court hearing in the trial against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 18, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A number of witnesses in the trial have also faced threats of violence.

The Haaretz daily reported Thursday that Hadas Klein, a key witness in the trial due to her role as an assistant to billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, now employs private security after a number of threats.

The report said that at least one more indictment is expected to be filed against an individual involved in witness harassment connected to the trial, and a number of individuals “identified with the prime minister” were to be questioned by police.

Also this week, the deputy attorney general ordered the Prime Minister’s Office to reinstate three drivers who were fired shortly after Netanyahu returned to office in late December. Media reports claimed their dismissal was due to the fact that they are set to serve as prosecution witnesses at his trial.

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