Netanyahu’s lawyers to push for disqualification of parts of allegations

Third hearing in Netanyahu’s corruption trial takes place Sunday

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu with members of his legal team at the beginning of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court in May. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu with members of his legal team at the beginning of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court in May.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
At a third hearing on Sunday in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged public corruption, lawyers will claim the police had begun a probe in Case 2000 before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit authorized them to do so.
Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad, the prime minister’s lawyers, hope this line of attack and others could lead to disqualifying large portions of the allegations against Netanyahu.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of involvement in an attempted media bribery scheme, which never panned out.
The three judges hearing the case in Jerusalem District Court are Rivka Friedman-Feldman, Oded Shaham and Moshe Bar-Am.
In the balance are a number of key issues relating to the case’s critical state’s witnesses, some of which the sides have been fighting over since May and could determine the direction of the trial, with witnesses due to be called in January.
According to the indictment, Netanyahu took several actions as prime minister to reduce the competitiveness of the Israel Hayom newspaper for the benefit of its competitor Yediot Aharonot, in return for a promise by Yediot owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes to systematically shift coverage of him from being negative to positive.
Netanyahu’s lawyers have claimed the police started to probe Netanyahu in relation to the case in March 2016, even though an official written approval from Mandelblit came only on July 10, 2016.
This could be important because the law specifically restrains the police from probing the prime minister unless authorized to do so by the attorney-general.
In some circumstances, if the police gather evidence without legal authority, the evidence – and sometimes the entire case – could be disqualified.
The Justice Ministry has responded that even though July 2016 was when Mandelblit issued a written approval, he had given a verbal approval as early as March 2016, which could alleviate the issue.
Netanyahu’s lawyers are expected to attack this defense as raising other grounds for tossing out Case 2000. They will argue that the reason a prime minister cannot be probed without the attorney-general signing off is because it is an incredibly significant issue.
Accordingly, they will say verbal permission should be inadequate.
Such a significant decision must be in writing so that it can be evaluated later by defense lawyers and the courts to determine if it was validly given and to understand how far the police could go in the probe (and if they went too far.)
Also in Case 2000, Netanyahu’s lawyers said the police seizure and inspection of the cellphone of former Netanyahu aide Ari Harow, now a state’s witness, was unauthorized.
They argued that the police only had the right to inspect Harow’s cellphone regarding an unrelated case specific to Harow himself.
Subsequently, when they accidentally found the recordings of Netanyahu talking to Mozes on Harow’s cell phone, the lawyers said the police requested a warrant from a court.
However, the lawyers argued that seeking a warrant after the fact was improper procedure.
According to the lawyers, the prosecution has not produced any kind of document explaining the process by which the police accessed the Netanyahu-related evidence on Harow’s cellphone.
They demanded the prosecution produce an explanation that the lawyers can then use as a basis to try to block the recordings from being used at trial.
The prosecution has responded that new information eventually came out, which served as the basis for the warrant to search Harow’s phone.
The defense is especially suspicious that the timing of when the new information came to the police’s attention does not seem to match up with when a deal was cut with Harow.
Presuming Harow tipped the police off or confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, the defense lawyers will say this would only make sense if he received something in return.
Underneath all of this, the defense lawyers believe the police acted improperly and the documents surrounding the incident will help them prove this.
Regarding former Netanyahu aide and state’s witness Nir Hefetz, they say key aspects of an exchange at the police station between him and a woman (not his wife) with whom he had a romantic connection were improperly omitted.
The lawyers want to attack the police for making the exchange happen and for not documenting all aspects of it.
The woman has sued the state for damage to her reputation and that Netanyahu’s lawyers want a copy of the lawsuit, but say they are being blocked by the state. Further, the prime minister’s lawyers want the woman’s statements to police, which prosecutors have said are irrelevant and would impinge on her privacy.
It is possible that the evidence may be presented by the state to the court without the defense lawyers present to decide this issue.
The defense lawyers are also seeking medical documents relating to allegations that Hefetz was mistreated and sick while being questioned. They hope to use these documents to undermine the credibility of his turning state’s witness, but the prosecution is claiming medical documents are a private matter.
Netanyahu’s lawyers also want to know if there were prosecution officials who opposed using this third-party female to “brutally” pressure Hefetz and what they had argued so that this could be presented before the court.
Former senior Police Investigations Department official Dubi Shertzer has claimed that he complained to his superiors in the PID about police investigators’ alleged abusive treatment of Hefetz.
The prosecution has responded that it is possible that such a complaint was raised verbally by Shertzer to deputy PID head Moshe Saada back in early 2018, but that either Saada decided the issue did not warrant a follow-up so he did not make a record of it, or that possibly Shertzer is making up the conversation.
Both Shertzer and Saada are currently in personal conflicts with law enforcement over promotions and related issues.