The Jerusalem District Court has partially acceded to prosecutors’ request for extra time to hand over material to the defense taken from the cellphone of the main witness in one of the favors-for-positive-news-coverage cases against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The court Tuesday set a new deadline of July 5 to provide the material and delayed the resumption of hearings to July 12, when Ilan Yeshua will resume giving testimony. Yeshua is the former CEO of the Walla news website, which is owned by telecom company Bezeq.
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The judges rejected the prosecution’s request that Avi Berger, a former Communications Ministry director general, begin to testify next week.
Three weeks ago, the judges instructed prosecutors to conduct a new search of Yeshua’s phone for messages relating to coverage by Walla. Their order was issued after several messages from the device were mistakenly sent to the defense and had not appeared in the evidence submitted by the prosecution.
The three-judge panel, chaired by Rivka Friedman-Feldman,
reprimanded prosecutors for failing to fully examine and share with defense attorneys all the relevant material and ordered them to provide it by this week. The order requires the prosecution to review all messages on Yeshua’s phone mentioning political figures, spokespeople, businesspeople, law enforcement officials, journalists and ad and media executives, plus others who were in touch with him regarding coverage of them on Walla.
Prosecutors had asked that the deadline to submit the evidence be put off until August 5. “Given the tremendous amount of material the prosecution is required to review, it isn’t possible to complete the work within the time frame set by the court’s ruling,” they wrote.
In their appeal, prosecutors also asked that Berger’s testimony begin earlier than originally scheduled, before they had completed gathering all the material from Yeshua’s phone.
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The judges rejected that request, siding with the defense counsel for Netanyahu as well as Shaul Elovitch and his wife Iris. Shaul Elovitch was the controlling shareholder of Bezeq at the time Netanyahu is alleged to have sought favorable coverage in exchange for regulatory favors for Bezeq.
In opposing earlier testimony by Berger, the state’s fifth witness in the case known as Case 4000, the defense team said it wasn’t yet ready, adding that “the prosecution’s failure to fully disclose to the defense all the investigatory material has created additional significant work that it hadn’t planned on,” the defense attorneys wrote.
Netanyahu’s lawyer, Boaz Ben Zur, told the court that the prosecution had undermined the continuity of the proceedings.
“The prosecutors are the ones who requested two weeks to complete the work of scanning the materials and giving them to the defense,” he wrote. “Now the prosecutors are asking for an extension to complete the work they should have done at the investigatory stage.”