Judge Eliyahu Winograd
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Zoom 77
Sando Mazor
Photo: Zoom 77

Police exceeded authority, says Judge Winograd

Retired justice criticizes decision to recommend indictment against prime minister, says investigators were out of line. Former head of police investigation unit concurs, says release of findings on primetime television made for unnecessary media circus

The police exceeded their authority by recommending an indictment be filed against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Judge Eliyahu Winograd said Monday.


The retired justice, who headed both the Winograd Commission on the Second Lebanon War and the committee tasked with the regulation of publications derived from police investigations, further said he believed the police decision to recommend indicting Olmert for bribery was detrimental to due process, since it put unnecessary pressure on the State Prosecutor's Office.


"The State Prosecutor's Office will have the final say on whether or not to file an indictment. The way things are, if the attorney general decides not to file charges, they'll say he's gutless.


"The public has been feeding off these publications, which say the police think there is reasonable basis for a bribery indictment," added Winograd. "If the attorney general thinks otherwise, he will be accused of being 'soft' on the prime minister."


Winograd, the former chief justice of the Jerusalem District Court, headed the 1998 committee which probed leaks and publications of information pertaining to police investigations. His final report, submitted to then Justice Minister Yossi Beilin (Meretz-Yahad), recommended the police cease making indictment recommendations altogether, leaving the matter to the sole discretion of the State Prosecutor's Office.


Crunch time

The final decision on whether or not Olmert would be indicted stands to be made by either Attorney General Menachem Mazuz or the Jerusalem District Prosecution.


"There are a lot of considerations which go into making a decision about filing an indictment against a public figure, " said Winograd, "and many are known to the attorney general but not necessarily known to the police. It's not up to them to decide if charges would be filed. The police should stick to investigating."


The police's dramatic announcement of the recommendation to file fraud and bribery charges against Olmert, continued Winograd, was out of line. "It's not their place. They should have said, 'Okay, we're done, the rest is up to you.'"


What the police have essentially done is create a sense of anticipation in the public: "The police are meant to investigate and gather evidence. The State Prosecutor's Office is meant to decide on whether or not to indict and the courts are meant to render their verdict. That is what due process is all about.

"After all the leaks from the interrogation sessions, with all this buildup, the police couldn’t have made any different recommendation."


Recommendation imperative

But not everyone concurs: Former Head of the police's Investigations Unit Sando Mazor agreed that the police exceeded authority, but said the recommendation was imperative to the State Prosecutor's Office, since "it makes the process easier."


According to Mazor, the police sift through thousands of documents and evidence before compiling a report which indicated whether or not the investigators believe they have gathered all the possible evidence and what is their quality – i.e. will they stand up in court – in order to make sure no additional investigations are needed.


"There are seasoned attorneys in the State Prosecutor's Office, who study the material. The recommendation helps them; it doesn’t pressure them into making any decision. If they don’t want the police to submit recommendations, all they have to do is say so."


Mazor is, however, critical of the fact that the police chose to go public with its recommendation. "Going public like that, just minutes before the eight-o'clock news – primetime television – it doesn’t look good. One has to ask if there were rating considerations involved; if there was anyone who wanted to turn this into a media circus."


The police, he concluded, should have issued a spokesman announcement, with the investigation's bottom line. "They should have just issued a statement saying 'the investigation into so-and-so's case has been concluded, these are the evidence gathered and the case has been turned over to the State Prosecutor's Office.


"There is a big difference between that and the media circus we witnessed."  


פרסום ראשון: 09.08.08, 12:43
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