Police: Cop Who Took Netanyahu Aide's Phone Didn’t Tell Him His Rights

Jonatan Urich and three other Netanyahu aides are suspected of harassing Shlomo Filber, who turned state's evidence in a corruption case against the prime minister

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Jonatan Urich, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud conference in September 2019.
Jonatan Urich, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud conference in September 2019. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Police say that one of their investigators who took the cellphone from the prime minister’s spokesman, Jonatan Urich, didn’t tell him he could refuse her request. Urich is suspected of harassing Shlomo Filber, who turned state’s evidence in one of the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Urich’s attorney, Noa Milstein, had demanded an investigation into the policewoman’s conduct, and it showed that she did not have Urich sign a document saying he was allowed to consult with a lawyer before handing over his phone.

On Twitter, Netanyahu called the confiscation "a terror attack on Israeli democracy and the right to privacy that every citizen should enjoy."

Four senior Likud campaign officials – Urich, media adviser Ofer Golan, creative director Israel Einhorn and another media adviser – are suspected of parking a van with a loudspeaker in front of Filber’s home and broadcasting accusations against him. Their defense attorneys said Tuesday they were opposed to any search of their cellphones. The matter is expected to be discussed Wednesday before Judge Ala Masarwa at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, in the presence of both parties.

Filber, a former director general of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, turned state's evidence in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for taking steps that benefited Bezeq telecommunications shareholder Shaul Elovitch in return for favorable coverage on Bezeq’s Walla news site.

According to the conditions of release for the four suspects in the Urich case, they are forbidden to speak to one another about the investigation for the next 30 days. A source close to the four men said the confiscation of phones has caused significant harm to their ability to work.

The police rejected claims by the prime minister’s associates that the investigation is being conducted unprofessionally, saying they did not intend to examine correspondence on the phones unrelated to the investigation. On Tuesday the attorney general was expected to send a document in that spirit to Urich’s attorney.

The police said the search of the four advisers’ cellphones would be conducted in a format to be determined by Masarwa on Wednesday, adding that the judge would be the one to read the correspondence to ensure that it deals only with the charge of harassing Filber. The investigation is being headed by Eli Asayag, chief of the national economic enforcement unit at the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption division.