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Judge questions state witness Filber over contradictory testimony at Netanyahu trial

Former communications ministry director says he may have misunderstood hand gesture made by Netanyahu, and that his testimony to police was possibly wrong

Shlomo Filber, former director-general of the Communications Ministry court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shlomo Filber, former director-general of the Communications Ministry court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The judge on Wednesday questioned the testimony of Shlomo Filber, a former confidant of opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he seemed to contradict himself as his cross-examination by Netanyahu’s attorneys continued.

Asked about a specific meeting with Netanyahu upon beginning his role as director of the Communications Ministry, Filber said he might have misinterpreted a hand gesture made by the former premier.

Filber, a close Netanyahu aide who turned state witness, is believed to be an essential piece of the prosecution’s case in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is accused of providing benefits to Shaul Elovitch, then-owner of Bezeq and the Walla news site, for more favorable coverage.

During an early investigation carried out by the Securities Authority in 2017, Filber said he understood the gesture as meaning “drop the whole thing,” in the sense of “tell Elovitch we can’t help him.”

However, later when being questioned by police, Filber told them he understood the gesture as “moderately lower prices,” which is what the prosecution claims Elovitch had asked Filber to do in order to limit competition with other communications companies.

Filber then testified Wednesday morning that his original testimony given to the Securities Authority might be correct, noting that it was a matter of “interpretation.”

Shlomo Filber, former director-general of the Communications Ministry court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Presiding Judge Moshe Bar-Am questioned Filber’s contradictory testimony.

“You claim to have told police the truth. What you’re saying now is completely different than the testimony given to police,” Bar-Am said.

Netanyahu’s lawyer, Boaz Ben Zur, slammed Filber, saying: “I don’t understand what you’re saying. Did he tell you to do something? Did he tell you not to? Forget interpretation. What was said?”

Following Filber’s testimony, Netanyahu and his attorneys reportedly left the courtroom.

Filber’s cross-examination by the defense began Tuesday, with the state witness saying police investigators initially lambasted him for being a “sucker” for refusing to speak.

“I was told, ‘Open your mouth, start talking, you’re a sucker. They’ve done a number on you. They are selling you out, and you’re just protecting them,’” he recalled.

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in his trial, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Case 4000 is considered the most serious of the three cases against the former prime minister.

Netanyahu is alleged to have advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that immensely benefited Bezeq — the country’s largest telecommunications firm — and its owner Elovitch, despite opposition from Communication Ministry officials. In exchange, he allegedly was given what amounted to editorial control over Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases. He faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000. He denies wrongdoing and says the charges were fabricated in a political coup led by the police and state prosecution.

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