Threats Mounting Against Witnesses in Netanyahu Corruption Cases, State Prosecutor Warns

Law enforcement believes removing the gag orders will increase the pressure on the two, who had been Netanyahu’s close associates

FILE Photo: Former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber during a hearing in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, May 10, 2018.
Motti Milrod

“The threat level against two state’s witnesses in the Netanyahu cases has risen,” according to attorney Amir Tabenkin of the state prosecutor’s tax and economics office, which is managing the corruption cases against the prime minister.

Tabenkin repeated this several times during a hearing last week that dealt with a request by the Hozeh Hadash association to remove the gag orders on the questioning of the state’s witnesses in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla case: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former strategic adviser Nir Hefetz and former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber, and the state-witness agreements signed with them.

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During the hearing in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, prosecutors gave Judge Ala Masarwa a secret report that described the threats against the two witnesses. A legal source told Haaretz that law enforcement believes removing the gag orders will increase the pressure on the two, who had been Netanyahu’s close associates.

According to the allegations against Netanyahu released by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit last month, Hefetz was the one who worked to slant coverage on the Walla News site and was Netanyahu’s emissary to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq and owner of Walla News, while Filber was Netanyahu’s agent in promoting regulatory interests that brought Bezeq huge economic benefits.

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Attorney Yuval Yoaz, representing Hozeh Hadash, argued that the principle of public justice and the public’s right to know justified reducing the scope of the gag order or even canceling it altogether. The state vehemently objected to the request, saying the order was needed to “protect the investigation and to protect the safety and privacy of the state’s witnesses.” The state added that in Case 4000 there had already been concrete attempts to disrupt the investigation.

Masarwa partially accepted Hozeh Hadash’s arguments and agreed to limit the gag orders, such that it would be forbidden to publish any details of the state-witness agreements or their appendices, nor the location and living conditions of any of the state witnesses or the restrictions imposed on them after they were released from police custody. “Similarly, there can be no details published from the investigation relating to the processes that preceded the signing of the state’s evidence agreements,” the judge ruled.

Haaretz has learned that law enforcement agencies are keeping in touch with the state witnesses and other significant prosecution witnesses in all the cases against the prime minister, and make periodic assessments of the threat level against them. A representative of law enforcement recently had a discussion with Filber after he “liked” a tweet by a pro-Netanyahu journalist who argued that Case 4000 was a frame-up.

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