Former Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved
Former Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved praised Netanyahu's vision of developing his run-down town. Photo by Hagai Frid
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Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved will be prosecuted for conspiring to commit a crime, infiltrating a computer system and invasion of privacy, the State Prosecutor's Office announced yesterday.

At issue is the copying of material from the municipal computer server and three other computers during 2005, which was allegedly done at Oved's orders by Avner Sharon, the owner of a computer firm, who will also be prosecuted.

According to the prosecutor's office, "based on the evidence in the file, the copying was done so that the mayor could search for topics relating to him that the city comptroller was investigating."

The prosecutors thus rejected claims by Oved's attorneys at a hearing held for him last year, during which they claimed the material had been copied "in accordance with continuous legal advice."

According to the allegations, which were first raised by Haaretz five years ago, some of the material found during the copying was used in a disciplinary action against the city comptroller, Benny Eliahu.

A local disciplinary court convicted Eliahu of misreporting his hours worked and improperly passing information to a journalist, basing itself on information discovered during the penetration of the computer system.

Eliahu appealed the ruling to the Petah Tikva District Court, which last month acquitted him of all the charges and awarded him legal expenses, even though he hadn't asked for them.

During the process, Eliahu was granted "protected whistle-blower" status by the state comptroller, thus foiling the effort to dismiss him.

Judge Noga Ohad ruled that "copying the personal email mailbox of the appellant constitutes an invasion of his privacy, equivalent to searching through his intimate personal effects or through a drawer in his office that contains personal items." The judge also compared it to illegal wiretapping.

The Movement for Quality Government, which had backed Eliahu during his appeal and last year gave him an award, expressed satisfaction over the decision to prosecute Oved.

MK Arieh Eldad (National Union ) who heads the Knesset's anti-corruption caucus, also praised the decision.

"The State Prosecutor's decision to indict the mayor is a warning sign to those in power who try to harass those who expose their corruption," Eldad said.

Oved is already on trial for violating income limits and forging corporate documents, allegations related to the 2003 mayoral elections.