Netanyahu Trial: New Search of Key Witness' Phone Will Take Months, Prosecutors Say

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Former Walla chief Ilan Yeshua in court last week.
Former Walla chief Ilan Yeshua in court last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israeli prosecutors asked the judges in a bribery case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to reverse their ruling ordering a new search of the cellphone of a key witness.

In the Bezeq-Walla case, Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust for having allegedly conferred massive regulatory benefits on the telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage on the Walla internet news site.

On Wednesday the judges told prosecutors in the case to find correspondence with politicians, businesspeople, media figures and law enforcement on the phone of former Walla chief Ilan Yeshua, and deliver it to Netanyahu’s lawyers.

In a letter to the judges, prosecutors argued that the search would take months and said that the prosecution does not know all of the people with whom Yeshua corresponded well enough to determine their relevancy to the case. They added that the prosecution does not have “the requisite knowledge or familiarity with all of the correspondents who might be” relevant to the investigation.

The prosecutors suggested that Yeshua be allowed to sort his phone contacts into categories in order to facilitate the search. In their letter, they said the cellphone of the key state’s witness contained 150,000 lines of text messages and 350,000 emails with tens of thousand of correspondents. The prosecutors ended their letter by saying the prosecution will continue to “consider its options” in response to the order to search the phone, implying a possible appeal of the ruling.

If relevant material is found on Yeshua’s phone, his testimony will continue for longer than originally scheduled.

In their decision last week, the judges wrote that there is no disputing that relevant investigative materials were not provided to the defense. They criticized the prosecutors, saying this situation must be rectified as soon as possible.

The judges declined a defense request to receive a list of all of Yeshua’s phone contacts, citing his right to privacy.

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