Likud campaign manager files police complaint over phone search

Ofer Golan claims seizure and perusal of his and another senior party official’s devices is a political move intended to isolate PM from his aides during coalition talks

Ofer Golan, Likud campaign manager and Netanyahu family spokesman, arrives at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on March 20, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ofer Golan, Likud campaign manager and Netanyahu family spokesman, arrives at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on March 20, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud campaign manager and Netanyahu family spokesman Ofer Golan filed an official complaint with the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department on Thursday over a police search of his cellphone.

He is the second senior Likud official to do so in as many days after party spokesman Jonatan Urich complained to PIID the day before, alleging that the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit had conducted “illegal acts” as it investigated him.

Police searched Golan’s and Urich’s phones during the course of an investigation into allegations that senior campaign figures for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had harassed Shlomo Filber, a former confidant of Netanyahu who led the ruling Likud party’s campaign in the 2015 elections before testifying against the premier in an alleged bribery case.

“It is now already clear that this is a political investigation whose goal is to isolate the prime minister from his advisers during the critical period of forming a government and ahead of a decision in the hearing,” Golan said, referring to ongoing coalition talks and a pre-indictment hearing, held for the prime minister earlier in October, in the three corruption cases he is facing.

Communications Minister David Amsalem, speaks during a ceremony at the Communications Ministry in Jerusalem, July 10, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Communications Minister David Amsalem, a fellow Likud party member, criticized the investigation into Netanyahu’s aides.

“Despite all the criticism, the persecution and snooping free-for-all is getting another green light,” Amsalem said in statement. “Regrettably we are living in an age where to be a close adviser to the prime minster turns you, along the way, into a target for the police/prosecution and a person who has no rights or defense.”

On Wednesday Tel Aviv Magistrate Court approved limited police searches of the aides’ phones but ordered them conducted under close judicial supervision.

“There were indeed flaws in the conduct of the investigation unit against the suspects in this case,” Judge Ala Masarwa said.

Filber is a key witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in telecom giant Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. He was then director-general of the Communications Ministry, which Netanyahu headed as minister during the period under scrutiny by prosecutors. He was arrested and questioned over his involvement in the case before turning state’s witness.

Urich, Golan and two other Likud campaign staffers are suspected of ordering a van sent to Filber’s home with loudspeakers blasting allegations he lied about the case.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday asked police to address claims that investigators had overstepped their authority in searching the phones after he received a letter from a lawyer representing Urich, which was leaked to the press. The letter claimed that police investigators had looked at messages on his phone that were unrelated to the investigation of the harassment of Filber, Channel 12 news reported Monday evening.

Senior Likud members have recently stepped up their accusations that Netanyahu is being unfairly pursued by the legal system in a trio of criminal cases against him. In addition to Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he is also suspected of the latter two offenses in two other cases against him. Mandelblit is expected to decide by the end of the year whether or not to press charges against Netanyahu.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, October 29, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Tuesday evening, Justice Minister Amir Ohana assailed state prosecutors who operate under his purview, accusing them of engaging in a blind persecution of public officials they feel threaten their standing, all while being supported by a “cult” of fawning reporters.

Ohana, of the Likud party, made the remarks during a press conference in which he responded to the investigations into Netanyahu, as well as the new probe this week into possible tampering by his aides against state’s witness Filber.

He also appeared to allude to a so-called deep-state element within the system, saying “there is another prosecution — a prosecution within the prosecution.”

In an interview with Israel Hayom, excerpts of which were published Thursday, Ohana said he is considering setting up an investigative committee to examine the conduct of state prosecutors.

September’s elections, the second vote held within six months, failed to resolve a political deadlock. Netanyahu’s chief rival, Blue and White Party leader MK Benny Gantz, was charged earlier this month with trying to form a coalition government after the prime minister, who was given first shot after the elections, admitted he had failed to do so.

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