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Israel Passes Law Preventing Police From Announcing Indictment Recommendations


Israel has passed a new law that places some restrictions on police who want to recommend criminal indictments against top officials. Now, this comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being investigated by police for suspected corruption. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.


UNIDENTIFIED LAWMAKER: (Chanting in Hebrew).

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: An opposition lawmaker chanted from the biblical book of Lamentations on the Parliament floor to protest the law seeking to restrict police from making public that it believed it had found evidence to charge a public figure for criminal activity. After a nearly two-day filibuster, it narrowly passed. The law was sponsored by a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's party. And critics saw it as an attempt to protect Netanyahu, who's being investigated over allegations that he improperly accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and tried to make a backroom deal with a newspaper publisher for good press coverage. If police publish their findings and recommend an indictment, Netanyahu could face pressure to resign. The law that was passed will not affect Netanyahu's current police investigations. With the new law, it will now be up to the attorney general to ask police to submit their findings in criminal investigations against public figures.



ESTRIN: Prime Minister Netanyahu told supporters recently that any police findings would be cast aside, and prosecutors wouldn't indict him. "I say this for a simple reason because there is nothing," Netanyahu says. Yohanan Plesner, who heads the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute think tank, says the damage to law enforcement with the new law is minimal but that it sends a message that the government is trying to suppress the police as it investigates Netanyahu.

YOHANAN PLESNER: The message is still out there. And it's a message that we think is wrong, and we hope it's a one offer - not part of a continued attempt to curb law enforcement agencies.

ESTRIN: Israeli television reports police are expected to complete their investigation of Netanyahu within a few months.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEIL COWLEY TRIO'S "KNEEL DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.

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