Prisoner was poisoned hours before testimony

Yoni Alzam, the prisoner who died in his cell hours before he was supposed to testify at a murder trial, was poisoned, according to information authorized for publication Thursday by the Tel Aviv District Court. The same court has put a gag order on all other information pertaining to Alzam's death, effective until March 13. Alzam was sentenced last month to life in prison for his part in the 2003 murder of underworld crime figure Hanania Ohana in a Petah Tikva parking lot. He was murdered in December 2005, hours before he was scheduled to testify against known criminal Shimon Zirhan, who allegedly pulled the trigger and shot Ohana in front of his wife and child. An autopsy conducted at the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Science had found a chemical substance in Alzam's body, leading police to believe that his death was not natural. At an early stage in the investigation, senior police investigators decided to transfer the investigation to the police's elite Serious and International Crimes Unit (SICU). "This is a complicated and sensitive case since Alzam was murdered in his cell in a high-security prison where he was supposed to be under 24-hour surveillance," police said in December. Police added that the investigation demanded extreme caution since prison guards may have been involved.