Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











State Prosecutor's Office Does Not Show Up at Meeting on Autopsy of Baby in Ashdod

By Eliezer Rauchberger

"The State Prosecutor's conduct is shameful and anti- democratic. They simply are unable to respond to the serious claims against them and therefore just did not come to the committee meeting. And even worse is that Justice Minister Chaim Ramon stands here before us and defends them. If he defends such a scandal he should resign," said MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni during a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee on the original demand to perform an autopsy on a baby girl who passed away in Ashdod. The demand incensed the chareidi community and led to disturbances and confrontations with police, not to mention hateful criticism in the press.

Last week the Knesset plenum held a discussion on Rabbi Gafni's Knesset motion regarding the demand to perform an autopsy on the baby from Ashdod. At the end of the meeting a decision was reached to hand over the issue to the Internal Affairs Committee meeting that was scheduled for Monday 16 Sivan. Various officials were invited to the meeting, including representatives from the State Prosecutor's Office. It was the State Prosecutor's office that had been demanding the autopsy in Ashdod and therefore was the cause of the entire affair.

But on Sunday, Deputy State Prosecutor Elad Rosenthal notified Committee Chairman MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) that no representatives from the State Prosecutor's Office would be attending the meeting, saying that the case is still pending in court and in investigation. "As a matter of policy," wrote Rosenthal, "representatives of the State Prosecutor's Office do not appear before Knesset committees regarding cases where there are pending legal decisions or cases under investigation since these matters are still under evaluation and review by the judicial authority. As such, representatives from the State Prosecutor's Office will not attend the upcoming meetings."

MK Majadele forwarded the letter to Knesset Legal Advisor Atty. Nurit Elstein, who wrote a long, detailed letter to State Prosecutor Eran Shendar stating the State Prosecutor is required to attend the committee meeting since the decision to hold the meeting was made by the Knesset plenum and civil servants are obligated to honor the Knesset's decisions.

She quoted Paragraph 21 of the Knesset Foundation Law, which states that committees are authorized to summon civil service officeholders and to require them to share information on activity at the body in which they serve. The law does also permit the minister in charge of that official or civil servant to appear in his stead to pass on the required information.

At the conclusion of her letter, Elstein wrote that the Foundation Law and the Knesset Code can require state representatives to appear before Knesset committees regardless of any claims they make — including cases pending legal decisions and investigations. Thus representatives of the State Prosecutor would have to appear at the committee meeting or else the Justice Minister would have to attend in their place. Minister Ramon then gave notice that he would attend the meeting himself.

Committee Chairman MK Majadele lodged harsh criticism against the State Prosecutor for not attending the meeting. "I intend to discuss this with the Knesset Chairman and we will decide which steps to take," he said. Minister Ramon supported the State Prosecutor's decision.

During the meeting MK Rabbi Gafni said that the State of Israel has a law prohibiting autopsies without the family's consent, adding that this law must be enforced just like any other law on the books. "I closely followed the events that transpired in Ashdod," he told the committee. "I spoke with police officials and learned they did not ask for an autopsy of the child. They had no hand in this. I also spoke with other officials involved and tried to persuade them not to autopsy the body, but the Southern District Attorney insisted on his demand to perform an autopsy and the court approved this demand. Today people from the Prosecutor's Office did not come to the meeting because they simply have no answers to the claims against them. They are unable to confront the simple question of why they demanded to perform an autopsy in violation of the law and despite the fact the police did not demand this."

Ashdod Councilman Rabbi Moshe Bourstein (UTJ) told the committee that the chareidi community in Ashdod does not have grievances against the police, which has always had good relations with the local kehilloh, but against the State Prosecutor for ordering an autopsy without justification as evident from the fact the police did not request an autopsy.

Other representatives of Ashdod's chareidi community also attended the committee meeting, including Atty. Rabbi Moshe Elmaliach, Rabbi Roshgold, Rabbi Osher Levy, Rabbi Moshe Greenbaum and Atty. Rafael Shtubb.

Knesset Legal Advisor Atty. Elstein spoke very earnestly on the issue, recalling a battle she had to wage to prevent an autopsy from being performed on her granddaughter, even though the cause of death was perfectly clear.

Atty. Elstein also lodged criticism against Health Ministry representatives, citing contradictions between their remarks and remarks made by chareidi representatives in Ashdod.


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