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Attorney General suspends criminal probe into Meron tragedy to prioritize state inquiry

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit froze the criminal investigations into the Meron disaster on Monday in order to facilitate the state commission of inquiry into April’s deadly grandstand collapse.

The criminal probe was being conducted by the police and the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct.

Mandelblit informed the state commission of inquiry of his decision on Sunday, and also told them that he ordered immediate enforcement against illegal, life-threatening structures at the site of the disaster, the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The decision to suspend the investigations was made after Mendelblit consulted with State Attorney Amit Aisman, the head of the police’s Department of Investigations and Intelligence Maj. Gen. Yigal Ben-Shalom, the head of the department for investigating police misconduct Keren Bar-Menahem as well as other law enforcement officials.

Mandelblit also to the committee members that he was prepared to prioritize their work, so they could “get to the truth and formulate recommendations that will prevent the recurrence of tragic incidents like the disaster in Meron.”

After the Meron disaster, which took place on the holiday of Lag Ba’omer in April and took the lives of 45 people, police questioned dozens of people. Some were questioned as possible suspects for alleged manslaughter.

The police had zeroed in on the primary suspects, including senior members of the National Center for the Development of the Holy Places, Yosef Shwinger and Yisrael Deri, and safety engineer Amar Khalaila and his assistant.

The government approved the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Meron incident last month, 52 days after the disaster.

Its members have the authority to summon civil servants to give public testimony and even oblige them to submit materials to it. It may issue personal recommendations regarding the conduct of officials and recommend that they be fired.

Based on a ruling by the High Court of Justice, the cabinet must discuss the findings and recommendations, but it has no obligation to accept them or implement them.

Source: Netael Bandel – HAARETZ