Request of Witness in Netanyahu Case to Label Interrogation as Classified Rejected

State prosecution, police tell Nir Hefetz that investigative materials cannot be concealed from the suspects’ lawyers

Nir Hefetz, the state's witness in the Bezeq telecom giant case, attends the Herzliya Magistrate's Court, September 2019.
Moti Milrod

Israel Police and State Prosecution have rejected a request from former spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned state witness that part of his interrogation be labeled as classified.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana invoked his immunity as a Knesset member on Wednesday to reveal an interrogation method allegedly used to get Nir Hefetz, who turned state’s evidence in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla quid pro quo case. A gag order was imposed on the interrogation ploy earlier this week, just as Channel 12 News was about to reveal it.

Speaking at the Knesset, Ohana said on Wednesday that officers who interrogated Hefetz brought “a young woman who had nothing to do with the prime minister investigations” and asked her intrusive questions about the nature of her relationship with him.

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After signing the state witness agreement Hefetz expected the information about the young woman would be leaked and asked the police and prosecution to label it classified. He was told that investigative materials cannot be concealed from the suspects’ lawyers in the Netanyahu graft cases, but was promised that the material pertaining to private matters would be given to the lawyers at the latest stage possible.

The police promised Hefetz they would prevent the information from being released and protect his privacy.

Several days ago, before Hefetz found out that Channel 12 News had intended to publish the report, Hefetz called his contact person in the police’s Lahav 433 crime fighting unit and told him he had word that interested parties had begun to spread information about him and the female witness.

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In the document summarizing the arguments in Netanyahu’s hearing on the Bezeq-Walla case, his lawyer Yossi Ashkenazi argued that the transcription of the female witness’ testimony, which had been banned for publication, didn’t appear in the evidence he received. He hinted at an attempt to hide the testimony.

But a source in the prosecutor’s office said the transcription wasn’t supposed to have been added to the evidence at all because it is not part of the core of the suspected offenses. Also, Hefetz had been promised that the transcription wouldn’t be submitted as part of the hearing, unless indictments were filed.

The source also said that before Channel 12 News planned to report about the young woman, prosecution officials sent Hefetz a message apologizing for the anguish caused him by erroneously submitting the information.

Senior Justice Ministry officials, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, are to discuss the significance of the interrogation tactic next week. They will examine whether the tactic was contrary to police procedures. However, ministry officials already believe it does not significantly harm the evidence Hefetz provided in his testimony and his contribution to the case. Most of the ministry’s senior officials believe Hefetz signed the state’s evidence agreement freely and willingly and that the investigation tactic and bringing in the female witness did not change any of that.

In another development, law enforcement officials are considering taking disciplinary steps against the investigators who carried out a wrongful search in the phones of the prime minister’s advisors, Jonatan Urich and Ofer Golan, as part of the investigation into harassing state witness Shlomo Filber. The officials are still undecided whether to take measures or wait for the decision of the Police Investigation Department in the Justice Ministry on the matter. The senior Justice Ministry officials believe that this failure does not prevent continuing the investigation against the two.

The State Prosecutor’s office said in response: “We have no intention of commenting at this time.”