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Former prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel began her testimony before the Jerusalem District Court yesterday in the libel trial brought by MK Natan Sharansky and his Yisrael b'Aliyah party against Dr. Yuli Nudelman, who in 1999 published a book, "Sharansky Unmasked," in which Nudelman claimed that the Yisrael B'Aliyah leader was a KGB agent and that he had connections to the Russian mafia.

The atmosphere in the courtroom was highly charged, with the two sides' attorneys exchanging insults and arguing with the judge. Nudelman's attorney, Yoram Mushkat, questioned Nudel about documents released by Sharansky on the Internet, but presiding Judge Zvi Segal halted questioning after Sharansky's attorney, Dan Avi-Yitzhak, objected to use of the documents until Sharansky had verified their authenticity.

Sharansky, who has already testified in the case, was summoned to the court's next hearing set for the end of December - only then will Nudel's testimony resume. The documents in question are letters that Sharansky allegedly sent to the KGB containing names of refuseniks. Dr. Nudelman claims the documents reinforce his claim that Sharansky colluded with the KGB.

Meanwhile, Eyal Handler, a special investigator in the team appointed by the Registrar of Non-profit Organizations to investigate donations to non-profit organizations affiliated to Yisrael b'Aliyah in the run up to elections to the 14th Knesset, confirmed that Grigori Lerner, a Russian immigrant convicted of bank fraud and alleged to be a top member of the Russian mafia, had donated $100,000 to Yisrael B'Aliyah.

Sharansky's attorney objected to Mushkat's attempts to question Handler on the donations, on the grounds that the judge had struck from the statement of defense any references to the affair. Mushkat argued that the Supreme Court rescinded part of Judge Segal's decision, but Segal said that the Supreme Court's decision was not clear enough.

Mushkat accused the judge of "rebelling against the Supreme Court", while Segal warned the lawyer was "bordering on contempt."