A judge in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit filed by an ex-aide to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Amir Ohana, which claimed the then-minister violated a gag order.
According to Channel 12 news, the judge rejected the lawsuit filed in late 2019 by Nir Hefetz against Ohana — who was at the time the public security minister and is currently an MK — because Ohana was protected by parliamentary immunity.
In November 2019, the then-minister gave a speech on the Knesset floor railing against what he described as police misconduct in leaning on Hefetz to testify against Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trial.
Ohana alleged that police threatened to reveal a relationship Hefetz had with a young woman to his family if he did not cooperate with the prosecutors.
In her ruling, Judge Kohava Levy made it clear that she has “no choice” but to dismiss the case due to Ohana’s parliamentary immunity, but that she viewed his speech as a “clear abuse of his power” and said she was disheartened that Ohana chose to violate the gag order “for his own purposes.”
Although the judge ruled that Ohana’s substantive immunity protects him from being sued, Channel 12 said that Hefetz has vowed to appeal the ruling.
“There is a long battle ahead,” said a source close to Hefetz. “Ohana won a temporary victory, but a final ruling is still far off.”
An attorney for Ohana told the outlet that he welcomed “the just and even self-evident decision of the court that immunity applies” in this case.
Israeli parliamentarians enjoy immunity from some types of prosecution, and lawmakers in the past have used the Knesset podium to reveal information about gagged subjects.
Hefetz is a former Netanyahu spokesman and confidant and a witness in Case 4000 — the most severe of the cases facing the premier — in which Netanyahu is suspected of pushing regulatory decisions benefiting the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications group, Shaul Elovitch, in return for ongoing positive news coverage in the Walla news site, which is owned by Bezeq.
Hefetz turned state’s witness after being arrested and questioned over a two-week period, and is believed to have provided prosecutors with key information about the period when he served as an informal interlocutor between Netanyahu and Elovitch and between Netanyahu and Walla.
The claims about Hefetz are thought to be aimed at bolstering the allegations against the prosecution and to cast Hefetz as an unreliable witness. Ohana is a key ally of Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing in any of the cases he is being tried for, has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media, the left, police and the state prosecution.