police - Tess Scheflan / Jini - June 6 2008
Police car. Photo by Tess Scheflan / Jini
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Police are investigating suspicions that witnesses in a case now before the Supreme Court were harassed, suborned and had their privacy violated.

The Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court agreed to release these details yesterday at the request of the police's national fraud squad, which is in charge of investigating senior public figures. The suspicions relate to witnesses who testified in a high-profile case first heard by a district court and then appealed. Details of the case remain under a gag order.

The law states that anyone who harasses someone regarding a statement he made or is about to make in an investigation or other legal proceeding is liable to a three-year prison sentence. Anyone who tries to suborn such a person not to make a statement, or to submit a false statement or revoke a statement previously made, is liable to a five-year prison sentence. The crime of violating a person's privacy consists, among other things, of spying on him or following him in a way that could harass him.

The police and prosecution take a very dim view of all these offenses, which are intended to obstruct the judicial process and prevent the truth from coming to light.

Either a suspect or a defendant, as well as other people acting on either party's behalf, can engage in harassing or suborning a witness. For example, in the case of former minister Haim Ramon, who was convicted of forcibly kissing a female officer, there were suspicions that an associate of Ramon's had hired private detectives to harass the complainant and violate her privacy.

In that case, the fraud squad investigated whether the detectives had followed the complainant so as to gather evidence that could harm her and undermine her credibility. Among other things, they looked into the possibility that a female private investigator had pretended to befriend the complainant and persuade her that she would be given a job in the future. They also investigated whether some of the complainant's friends were questioned in the hope of obtaining statements that would contradict her statement to the police against Ramon.

No evidence was ultimately found against Ramon's associate, but enough evidence was found against the private detectives that the police have asked the prosecution to consider indicting them. No decision has yet been made.