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(photo credit: Ori Porat)
Although Yoram Levy's testimony Sunday morning was supposed to be one of the most dramatic episodes in the second round of the Zeiler Commission hearings, it was overshadowed by allegations made by Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi that another senior officer was trying to blackmail him.
The commissioner claimed that Asst.-Cmdr. Amir Gur, Levy's most vocal critic and bitter rival, harassed and even blackmailed the chief of police through the use of text messages sent to Karadi's cellular phone. The allegations, which Karadi had requested to deliver during closed-door testimony in late April, were released from an almost six-month-old gag order after review by the three members of the Zeiler Commission.
The commission, led by former district court justice Vardimos Zeiler, is charged with reviewing the way police handled a six-year investigation and the conduct of the prosecution throughout, which began following the 1999 murder of underworld figure Pinhas Buhbout. Police believe that southern crime bosses Oded and Sharon Perinian hired former policeman Tzahi Ben-Or to murder Buhbout while the latter was recuperating from a previous attempt on his life. Ben-Or subsequently entered into negotiations to serve as a state's witness against the Perinians, but later fled the country and was murdered in Mexico in 2004.
In the testimony, Karadi characterized Gur as obsessive with regard to promotion to the rank of lieutenant commander and said that he believed that the actions were grounded in Gur's "deep emotional distress."
Karadi offered a number of examples of messages that he had saved to illustrate Gur's behavior. He also cited a meeting between the two at which Gur told him: "You know that your competition for the office of chief of police are pressuring me to make trouble for you. Just promote me and we'll call it a deal."
"I emphasize that at this meeting one could understand from Gur that if I did not promote him, people would act to my detriment, in one way or another," Karadi said in his statement.
"The statement speaks for itself," said attorney Eli Zohar, a member of Karadi's defense team in the Zeiler Commission hearings. "If the media interprets what was said as a blackmail attempt, it is a logical interpretation. Karadi was under pressure and the facts speak for themselves."
But Gur's attorney, Shuki Shtein, standing meters away from Zohar outside of the hearings Sunday, told an entirely different story. "These things never happened. The chief of police invented fairy tales. The chief of police's version cannot stand," said Shtein.
Shtein added that a meeting to which Karadi referred in his testimony as an example of Gur's inappropriate behavior occurred a half year before the establishment of the Zeiler Commission. "If there was an attempt at blackmail, why didn't Karadi respond? And why did Karadi even bother to save and document all of those messages?" he asked.
The hubbub surrounding the release of Karadi's April statement was a lucky break for Levy as he took the stand Sunday, as the alleged dirty cop pled his innocence and frequently reiterated that Gur was the ringleader of a conspiracy to discredit him.
The senior officer, whose relations with the Perinian crime family have become one of the focal points of the Zeiler Commission probe, characterized himself as a well-meaning, street-wise cop, and a victim.
"I have nothing to hide; I have never had anything to hide. All of my life is open to everyone - including every journalist, every judgeâ€¦. I feel like I am in a nightmareâ€¦. I never imagined that any of my colleagues would sew together such a patchwork of allegations against me," he said.
In over four hours of testimony and questioning, Levy addressed each of the almost two dozen specific allegations made against him in warning letters delivered by the commission in May. At least twice during his testimony, Levy broke down and cried when mentioning the impact of the allegations on his ability to offer emotional support for his son, whose APC was hit and whose comrades were killed during IDF operations in Gaza.