A lawyer for Shaul Gonen – one of the state’s intended witnesses in the now-defunct Bar Noar murder case against Hagai Felician – told the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that he would voluntarily waive his state’s-witness immunity from charges of sexual assault.
The Wednesday hearing was the result of a petition by lawyer Azrieli Karbatzov to the court to cancel the state’s immunity agreement with Gonen and prosecute him on the sexual assault charges.
Karbatzov ultimately withdrew his petition after the High Court stridently criticized him for using unfounded media reports as a basis for interfering with the prosecution’s discretion to cut immunity deals.
However, in the middle of the hearing, Gonen’s lawyer volunteered that his client would not invoke his immunity.
Despite Gonen’s statement to the court, it is unclear whether any charges will be filed against him following the immunity deal, or how and to what extent his oral waiver of immunity can be formally enforced.
At the very least, his public declaration seemed to be an attempt to clear his name from trying to hide behind an immunity agreement.
In March, nine months into the case against Felician, the prosecution withdrew the indictment against the defendant for the 2009 murders of two patrons at Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar LGBT club.
The decision meant that the double murder case that has plagued Tel Aviv police since August 2009 returned to being an unsolved mystery.
The withdrawal came after the prosecution concluded that Zaor Hankishayev, its primary state’s witness (besides Gonen) against Felician, had fabricated evidence against the defendant.
Hankishayev himself then lost his state immunity, having allegedly violated its terms, and was indicted for his fabrications.
He allegedly falsified his correspondence with Felician during the months he was working undercover for police building up wiretap evidence on Felician.
The case against the Bar Noar suspect had been built mostly on Hankishayev’s testimony, but it used Gonen’s testimony as well.
Separately Gonen had been suspected of sexually assaulting a younger relative of Felician’s, an assault that was said to have been the motive for Felician allegedly committing the Bar Noar murders (before the case against him was withdrawn).
Besides the two witnesses, the evidence against Felician had not included DNA, fingerprints, forensic evidence linking him to the murder weapon, or a witness placing him at the scene.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.