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A man who contracted thugs to attack a senior media executive at the behest of late entertainer Dudu Topaz last year was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison.

Ophir Sasportas, who was convicted of conspiring to commit a crime and of causing deliberate grievous injury, was also ordered to pay the victim, Keshet CEO Avi Nir, NIS 70,000 in compensation.

Disgraced television star Dudu Topaz strangled himself in his prison cell in Ramle last year, while awaiting trial for hiring goons to beat up several media executives and talk show hosts who had rejected his ideas for television programs.

Apart from Nir, Topaz's victims included Shira Margalit, deputy CEO of the Reshet television company, and actors' agent Boaz Ben-Zion, both of whom were assaulted near their homes.

This was the heaviest penalty imposed on persons convicted in the Topaz affair. Daniel Zenko, who mediated between Topaz and the attackers of Margalit and Ben-Zion, was sentenced to three years, a year and a half suspended sentence, a NIS 20,000 compensation fee to each of the victims and a NIS 3,000 fine.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Zvi Gurfinkel said Topaz's case must serve as "a milestone for something we have not known before - sending criminals to break people's bones for the sole crime of doing their job ... using thugs, mercenaries to break people's bones as revenge is so grave it requires severe penalties."

"I cannot ignore the gravity of this horrendous crime and the court would be remiss in its duty unless it denounced this act clearly and unequivocally," the judge wrote in the verdict.

Gurfinkel said the court must fight such crimes "relentlessly and unhesitatingly. Imposing light penalties would not serve this purpose and would not increase the public's confidence in the courts."

Topaz paid Sasportas NIS 20,000 to have Nir attacked. Sasportas then contracted another person, who hired two thugs to ambush Nir on November 24, 2008, in a park near his home. They attacked him with a club, causing him serious injury. After the attack Topaz paid Sasportas an additional NIS 5,000.

Gurfinkel said that unlike Zenko, who had cooperated with the police, confessed and incriminated the attackers, Sasportas hid for 12 days and then refused to name the man he had contracted to hire the attackers. "Thus it was impossible to find the man who sent those thugs, or the one who acted with Awami [one of Nir's attackers]," he wrote.