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Shalom Yemini, on trial for killing Meital Aharonson in a hit-and-run accident in Tel Aviv in October last year, had racked up 55 traffic offenses in 4 years, Haaretz has learned. Copies of Yemini's traffic tickets indicate that he sometimes even received two or three tickets a day. Five of the offenses are for running a red light - as he did when Aharonson was killed. The Bailiff's Office said Yemini's debts for the tickets ran up to NIS 41,000.

The trial's defense stage opened yesterday with the testimony of his fellow accused, Shai Simon, who is suspected of being in the vehicle's passenger seat at the time of the fatal hit. Simon recounted how he and Yemini escaped in the jeep of a friend who had been detained by police earlier for a routine alcohol check at the Tel Aviv port area. He said he was constantly looking over his shoulder to see if they were being chased by police, "and all of a sudden I look ahead and see someone in front of the car. I yelled at Shalom but I didn't even finish saying his name before I felt us hit someone," he said.

Simon also said that Yemini's associates had threatened him that he should align his testimony with that of Yemini - claims that the latter strongly denied.

According to Simon, he was represented by a lawyer named Sasi Gazi, while Yemini was represented by a lawyer named Eli Cohen. However, Simon says, during the interrogation stage he was visited by a lawyer named Gadi Zilbershlag, who introduced himself as Cohen's apprentice. Zilbershlag allegedly told Simon that he was now representing him and advised him to use his right to remain silent throughout the questioning.

"I didn't suspect anything at first, but then I heard that Shalom had turned himself in. He [the lawyer] told me that, then covered his mouth and told me Shalom was saying that he fell asleep at the wheel and doesn't remember a thing," Simon related.

"He then told me, I know you want to help him but don't be an idiot, let them talk and then tell them you don't know what they want from Shalom, because you could hear him snore." Simon says he was threatened by Yemini and believed the lawyer was trying to induce him not to give any incriminating testimony. However, he later found out that Zilbershlag's services had been sponsored by mutual acquaintances of both him and Yemini - "and then the penny dropped," he said.

The state prosecution did not initiate any proceedings against any of the lawyers involved, due to the difficulty of proving that the friends hired Zilbershlag at Yemini's request. Commenting on the allegations, Zilbershlag said: "I cannot reveal anything said between myself and a client due to confidentiality. Generally speaking, I would never advise a client what to say to an interrogator or in court, but limit myself to explaining his rights and the legal meaning of things he might wish to disclose."