tzahi hanegbi 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The first witness in the trial of MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) told the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Tuesday that ministry heads had let it be known informally that all new hirings must go through the minister's bureau.
The witness, Batsheva Kopatch, who headed the central district branch of the Environment Ministry between 1995 and 2005, also said she had received threats from prospective employees whom she had rejected or hired and then fired.
Kopatch made her statement on the first day of testimony heard by the court against Hanegbi, who is charged with having made dozens of political appointments during his term as environment minister from March 2001 to March 2003. Charges against him include fraud, breach of trust, election bribery, providing false testimony and lying under oath.
Hanegbi did not speak during the hearing, but on his way into the courtroom told reporters, "I hope the mills of justice grind quickly. I relinquished my immunity and waived many witnesses in order to speed up the trial. I am certain my complete innocence will be proven."
Kopatch told the court, "We were given a directive that we were only to hire new employees through the minister's bureau, which wanted to be involved."
Once, she said, she interviewed two candidates for an opening in her district. Regarding one of them, she was told to freeze the matter in accordance with a directive. Afterwards, she interviewed another candidate who made a bad impression on her. "When I told him he was unworthy of the post, he became very angry and said he would 'pass the matter on' and that he had close ties with the minister," she told the court.
Afterwards, Kopatch continued, she received a threatening phone call from a woman who said she was the candidate's mother and warned Kopatch that she would tell the minister's bureau about what had happened.
In another case, Kopatch was reportedly pressured by Shmuel Hershkowitz, Hanegbi's aide and ministry director-general, who is also on trial, to hire a man with no experience. Later, Kopatch said, after she fired him, he made personal accusations against her.
Prosecutor Na'ama Sultani told the court that some of the people hired by Hanegbi's men conducted themselves in ways that others would not have dared.
Sultani and prosecutor Erez Padan charged that the 80 alleged political appointments made by Hanegbi were not isolated cases, as Hanegbi claimed.