Hearing in Netanyahu Trial Suspended Over Spyware Scandal

NSO's Pegasus spyware was reportedly used without a court order and against Netanyahu's son and co-defendant in his criminal trial

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, in November.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, in November.Credit: Yoav Dudkevitch
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Judges cancelled a hearing scheduled to take place Tuesday in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial to allow Israel's State Prosecutor to respond to allegations that police used spyware to hack into the phones of key witnesses in the cases.

The State Prosecutor's Office must submit its response by 2 P.M. on Tuesday, after which the judges will determine whether the hearing scheduled for Wednesday will take place.

According to a report published Monday by the Israeli financial daily Calcalist, Israel Police used NSO's Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of public figures, including associates of Netanyahu and those involved in his criminal trial.

The hacking tool was used without a court order and against Netanyahu's son, Avner Netanyahu, co-defendant in his criminal trial Iris Elovitch, leaders of disability rights protests, journalists at the Walla news website, businessman Rami Levy, mayors and senior officials in the Finance Ministry, explains the report.

Netanyahu's media advisers, Topaz Luk and Yonatan Urich have also been targeted, alongside Head of Workers' Union Yair Katz, the report said.

Defense lawyers in Netanyahu's corruption trial asked the court on Sunday to postpone the testimony of state’s witness Shlomo Filber, after police admitted last week that it used spyware to access the contents of Filber’s cellphone.

Netanyahu is accused of instructing Filber, the director general of the Communications Ministry at the time, to promote the regulatory interests of the Bezeq telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage for the prime minister and his family on the Walla news website, which Bezeq owned at the time.

Filber’s testimony is scheduled to begin Wednesday or next Monday, following the testimonies of the ministry’s legal adviser Dana Neufeld and Shai Hayek, Netanyahu’s former political spokesman.

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