State Witness Sues Justice Minister for Revealing Police Investigation Details

Hefetz, who turned state’s evidence against Prime Minister Netanayhu filed a civil suit on Thursday against Ohana and political commentator Yaakov Bardugo

Israel's Justice Minister Amir Ohana, 2019.
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Nir Hefetz, who turned state’s evidence against Prime Minister Netanyahu, filed a civil suit on Thursday against Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Yaakov Bardugo, a right-wing commentator on Army Radio for allegedly exposing the ploy used in the police investigation against him, thereby violating his privacy. Hefetz is seeking 500,000 shekels ($144,000) from each of the defendants.

Hefetz, who had been a media adviser to the Netanyahu family, turned state’s evidence in the Bezeq-Walla case in which the prime minister is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly trading regulatory concessions for favorable media coverage on the Walla news website. Speaking in the Knesset in November, Ohana used his immunity as a Knesset member to disclose police methods from the Knesset rostrum, even though the details were subject to a court-imposed gag order. Channel 12 News had initially intended to report on the unusual methods allegedly used by the police to apply pressure on Hefetz, but the police had the disclosure stopped.

Ohana said in response to the suit that he would not retract his remarks. “What I said from the rostrum was necessary for a parliamentary discussion of the issue” he wrote. He added that he did not know about the gag order at the time.

“According to some reports, Hefetz was arrested…bitten by mosquitos and begging to be brought to a doctor,” Ohana said from the Knesset rostrum. “And then they brought a young woman who was unrelated to the prime minister’s investigation, asking her invasive questions about her relations with the witness [Hefetz].”

The lawsuit against Bardugo, a businessman and radio commentator, relates to messages that he allegedly sent to a group called “Unity in the Likud,” Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political party, on the WhatsApp messaging app. Bardugo has denied the allegation calling it “a forgery and an invention,” but Hefetz’s suit alleges that the cellphone number from which the messages were sent is that same as that listed for Bardugo with the Israel Bar Association, of which he is a member.

Hefetz is alleging that the disclosure of the unorthodox police methods amount to “lethal character assassination” intended to force him to retract his testimony in the Bezeq-Walla case.

The suit against Ohama alleges that since Hefetz signed the state’s evidence agreement, “various officials associated with the prime minister have been trying to hurt him in any way possible” to undermine his credibility and deter him.

The lawsuit alleges that Ohana’s statement in the Knesset was a blatant violation of a court order and claims that it was done to inflict seriously harm upon Hefetz and his family. It also claims that Ohana made cynical use of his ministerial position.

In addition to alleging that Ohana and Bardugo violated the gag order, it claims obstruction of judice, harassing of a witness and abuse of power.

Hefetz’s lawyers, Ilan Sofer and Aviv Ron, said: “If Ohana is counting on his immunity to protect him, as he did while reading his abusive statement in the Knesset, he is mistaken.”