in the courts

Attorney Nathan Lewin disappointed by Netanyahu’s indictment

Kobi Gideon (GPO)

In an interview with Jewish Insider, renowned American lawyer Nathan Lewin expressed his disappointment at the indictment announced against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday. 

Lewin met with Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and state prosecutors last month to present a brief in defense of Netanyahu on Case 4000 — which alleges the prime minister acted to benefit Bezeq chief Shaul Elovitch in exchange for favorable media coverage on Elovitch’s Walla News. The brief was written by Lewin along with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Washington litigation attorney Richard Heideman, Joseph Tipograph, and Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. The group argued that no public official in the United States has ever been convicted or accused of receiving or soliciting a bribe because they benefited from favorable publicity. 

“I was obviously very disappointed in the result because I thought that what we had submitted, what I have written, was clearly correct,” Lewin told JI. 

Following last month’s hearings between Mandelblit and the attorneys, Ma’ariv reported that prosecutors were worried that the group had managed to convince the attorney general to drop the bribery charges. But on Thursday, Mandelblit announced that he found no reason not to charge the prime minister with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. 

“The decision is, of course, disappointing because from Israeli press reports it appeared that Mandelblit was persuaded by our argument that a promise of favorable publicity by a media owner to a political figure should not, for various constitutional policy reasons, be treated as a bribe,” Lewin said. “To do so and subject it to criminal investigation and prosecution severely jeopardizes freedom of press and freedom of speech.”

In the interview, the U.S. attorney advised Netanyahu “to fight this out” and expressed hope that “any fair-minded judge who considers the consequences of permitting this kind of prosecution would have to come to the conclusion that it is so harmful for freedom of press and freedom of speech that it can’t be allowed.” He suggested that court “is likely to be a more judicious forum and [judges are] less likely to be pressured by the media and public whim than Mandelblit and his team of prosecutors.”

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