Published January 10th, 2005 - 12:12 GMT

Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading national newspaper, has singled out the Michael Cherney case as a shameful miscarriage of justice in 2004 by that nation’s judicial system.

Cherney, a successful metals industrialist, has become a subject of two highly politicized investigations since he moved to Israel from Russia in 1994. In 2002, the Attorney General’s office charged him, one of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen, with an alleged $150,000 bribe to an Eilat City Councilman in order to get discounts at a hotel and a restaurant, reported Ha’aretz in its year-end review.

The AG’s office continued the investigation despite the judge’s repeated indications to the prosecutors to withdraw, accompanied by media accusations of “absurdity” and “political motivations” behind the episode. The court rejected the AG’s request to bar Cherney from leaving the country and quashed most of the charges on procedural grounds.

The story ended, according to Ha’aretz, in July 2004, when Attorney General Edna Arbel, who had been the main prosecutor of the case, left her job. Her resignation allowed the AG’s office to withdraw the charges and avoid an inevitable “not-guilty” verdict for Cherney.

Almost all charges in a second investigation of Cherney, involving a bid to purchase part of the national telecommunications company Bezek, were also withdrawn in 2004, and Police General Moshe Mizrahi, who had pursued Cherney, was himself dismissed by Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, based on suspicions that he had conducted illegal phone-tapping of leading Israeli politicians and businessmen.

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