Phone-tap row erupts in Katsav case

Reports circulate that police listened in on personal calls for several months.

katsav angry as hell 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
katsav angry as hell 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
One of President Moshe Katsav's lawyers said on Thursday that the president's close aides had "convincing proof" their telephones had been wiretapped over the past few months. A member of Katsav's defense team, attorney Avigdor Feldman, told The Jerusalem Post that "one of Katsav's aides found a listening device." A Channel 1 report inferred that the wiretaps were carried out by the police, showing footage of the head of the police intelligence and investigations branch, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, defending the use of wiretapping before the Knesset Law Committee last February. Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen told the Post the ministry had no comment. If the report is true, it could have serious implications for Katsav's hearing, scheduled for May 2, and for a High Court petition filed by the president's lawyers, which is due to be heard on Sunday. Katsav is facing indictment for rape and other charges. Another member of the team, attorney Zion Amir, told Channel 1 news that "it could turn out to be a major scandal which could have harsh and grave consequences on the entire process - on the hearing, obviously, on the investigation, on the motives for the investigation, and on the reasons why the investigation developed in the way it did." In the petition, the lawyers are demanding that the state prosecution give them all the material related to Katsav's investigation that it has not yet provided. Amir told the Post earlier this week that the lawyers knew of specific material in the state's possession which it had not yet handed over, and was certain that there was additional material that they did not know about. Should it turn out to be true that Katsav's close friends were wiretapped and that the wiretapping was conducted by the police, the lawyers would obviously demand this material as well. In its response to the petition, the state pointed out that according to the law, it was only bound to give the defense all the investigation material after an indictment was filed. Since the hearing was a procedure that takes place, by definition, before that step, the state was not obliged by law to hand over the material it had not yet provided. The state also rejected the defense argument that Katsav should be given all the material because of his position. It argued that the High Court had already established in a previous ruling that Katsav should not be given special privileges just because he is the president.