Prosecution in Netanyahu Trial Summons 90 Witnesses, Starting With News Site ex-CEO

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Walla’s CEO Ilan Yeshua in 2014.
Walla’s CEO Ilan Yeshua in 2014.Credit: Eyal Toueg

Israel’s state prosecutor announced Tuesday that the first witness in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be former Walla new site CEO Ilan Yeshua.

The announcement stated that the prosecution has provided the defendants’ representatives with the order of witnesses in the favors for positive media coverage case – the first case the court will hear, also known as Case 4000 – as well as the documents it intends to present for every witness.

Prosecutors intend to summon 90 witnesses overall, but released the order of the first 20 so far.

The first group of witnesses that is expected to testify includes Yeshua, Aviram Elad, Michal Klein, Amit Eshel, Avi Berger, Dror Strum, Felix Cohen, Nir Hefetz, Nir Schwartz, Yaniv Peleg, Moti Elmaliach, Kim Levy, Dov Gil-Har, Boaz Stembler, Shai Hayek, Israel Leshem, Talya Gerstler, Yariv Amiad, Polina Govzman Kariv and Eden Bar Tal. The defense lawyers were also sent an additional list of witnesses who will testify at a later stage, without a determined order.

The prosecution indicated that there could be a change in the order of witnesses, in part because it is still early and the accused haven’t submitted their responses. The prosecution explained that “naturally, the defendants’ responses to the indictment could render the testimony of certain witnesses superfluous or to have consequences on their place in the order of the suit.” Likewise, changes could happen because dates haven’t been set for all witnesses to testify yet.

On Sunday the attorneys of Netanyahu, former Bezeq and Walla owners Shaul and Iris Elovitch and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes provided the state prosecutor with dozens of requests to disclose investigative materials. Sunday was the last day to submit such requests, in accordance with the ruling of the judges in the prime minister’s multiple corruption cases. Netanyahu’s lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad, said that some of the materials they requested could exonerate the prime minister in Case 2000, which revolves around negotiations between Netanyahu and Mozes to bend Yedioth Ahronoth coverage in the prime minister’s favor.

They say the police investigated Netanyahu in March 2016, three months before the attorney general approved investigating him. They have asked for a document from before March 2016 attesting that the attorney general had approved the investigation. Additionally, the defense lawyers said that the evidence indicates that Yeshua was acting as a police agent, but they haven’t received documents establishing his status in the investigation.

Mozes’ lawyers, Navit Negev-Ram and Iris Niv-Sabag, asked that documents and information regarding the circumstances of the surveillance of Netanyahu’s close associate, Natan Eshel, be resent to them. They also asked for cell phone records of state witness Ari Harrow, who recorded Mozes and Netanyahu, as well as additional information about the contacts between the state prosecutor and the owners of Yisrael Hayom, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, before they provided testimony to the police.

The lawyers of the Elovitch couple, Jack Chen and Michal Rosen-Ozer, wrote to the court that a large amount of material had not been provided to them, especially documents touching on what they called controversial investigative actions and on pressure that they claim was placed on state witnesses.

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