(photo credit: Israel Police)
A day after the Nahariya Five received a not-so-veiled threat in a national newspaper, the four policemen and one civilian standing trial for targeting organized crime figures discovered an unwelcome guest milling among the family members who had gathered to support them at their latest hearing Wednesday: among the well-wishers at the Haifa District Court was none other than a family member of the gangster that they had targeted.
According to witnesses, Rafi Ben-Shalom, Mor's nephew and the second target of the alleged pipe-bomb attacks, was present at the Haifa District Court Wednesday afternoon, in advance of the hearing of the five. Ben-Shalom's attorney allegedly asked for permission for his client to attend the hearing as a victim of the alleged plot, but Judge Ron Shapira prevented Ben-Shalom from entering.
The four policemen and one civilian also broke their silence Wednesday, as one of the defendants - known only as "Y." because of the gag order against publishing their names - read a pre-prepared statement in which he expressed the defendants' deep dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Israel Police.
"The behavior of our commanders in our case is an embarrassment to the Israel Police," said Y. "We are innocent and we request that they treat us accordingly and that they stop treating us as though we were already convicted. We want to thank those who helped us and believe that justice will come to light."
Later, he added that "the behavior of our commanders has hurt us and hurt all of the other police."
Y. continued to explain that the five, whom he described as "among the best and most determined among the ranks of the police," were reduced to selling their houses and possessions in order to fund their legal battle to prove their innocence.
Recently, family members, neighbors and colleagues of the police officers have begun fund-raising efforts to create a legal aid fund for the five.
"This is a kangaroo trial and we believe that the truth will come to light... We are good people, and we are innocent. People are spilling our blood. They have convicted and judged us even before the court trial has begun."
After the statement and the intrigue, the hearing itself was relatively uneventful, with the remand of all five extended until the next hearing. Judge Shapira also requested that the Justice Ministry's Police Investigative Department submit to the court a list of security arrangements that will be necessary if the five are to be held until the end of the proceedings against them.
The sixth alleged member of the "blue underground" - a police officer turned state's witness against his comrades - was indicted Wednesday. In exchange for his testimony and a guilty plea, the state's witness will only be sentenced to a half-year of community service rather than the up to 15 years in prison that his alleged coconspirators could face.
And in the last chapter of Wednesday's legal wrangling involving the Nahariya Five, Mor's attorneys were awaiting an answer from the courts in response to their appeal to remove the gag order preventing the printing the names of the alleged conspirators.
This appeal coincides conveniently with Tuesday's suspicious incident in which the names of the suspects, previously hidden by court order, were printed in death notices in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot. The name provided by the person ordering the notices was none other than Michael Mor, despite the fact that Mor's attorney denied that his client - currently serving a sentence in Shata Prison - was behind the incident.
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