Man indicted for threatening child of Netanyahu prosecutor

Shahar Ben Yehuda alleged to have sent profanity-laced message to underage son of Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, the lead attorney in criminal cases against the PM

Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A resident of the northern city of Karmiel was indicted on Thursday on charges of threatening the underage son of Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Shahar Ben Yehuda, 30, was detained by police after refusing to voluntarily come in for questioning over profanity-laced messages he allegedly sent to the young man via social media.

According to business daily Globes, Ben Yehuda admitted to sending the messages in response to a video he claimed to have seen online in which Ben-Ari’s son physically assaulted a policeman during a demonstration. The Justice Ministry said the claim was “fake news.”

Ben Yehuda also stated that he had sent the messages to scare Ben-Ari because he believed she was persecuting the country’s political right.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

“”Are you the son of Ben-Ari the ******,” he allegedly wrote in a message sent via Facebook, Globes reported.

While Ben Yehuda’s remand was not extended, he is currently banned from travelling to central Israel, contacting anyone involved in the case or using social media during the remainder of his legal saga.

Ben-Ari is not the first person connected with the cases against the prime minister to have to deal with threats against her family. In May, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu, filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats and other harassing messages.

Among the messages sent to Mandelblit were “You and your family will die,” “You should kill yourself,” and “We’ll get to you and your kids,” as well as a photo of him in a Nazi uniform, Channels 12 and 13 reported at the time. He was also sent a clip of a coffin, the reports said.

The prime minister’s defenders have harshly criticized Ben-Ari and other prosecutors who they accuse, without evidence, of attempting to unseat Netanyahu for political reasons.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at an event in Bar Ilan University. March 4, 2020. (FLASH90)

On Monday, Netanyahu’s eldest son Yair apologized to Hindus after tweeting an image of the Hindu goddess Durga, with the face of Ben-Ari, superimposed over the goddess’s face. Her many arms were raised giving the middle finger.

Mandelblit’s face was superimposed over that of a tiger accompanying the goddess under a caption that said: “Know your place you despicable people.”

Last Sunday, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called on Ben-Ari to resign over allegations that she had violated the law by splitting her home into two separate apartments without a permit.

Ohana, who had previously quarreled with Ben-Ari during his tenure as justice minister, said that if the allegations prove to be true then “she should not continue to serve” at the ministry, adding that it was “a shame and disgrace that those who preach all day long for clean hands, moral purity and the observance of the law, and invent cases that did not exist, are suddenly revealed in their corruption.”

In a statement issued via the ministry, Ben-Ari said that the property was not her family’s personal residence but had been purchased by a joint purchase group, of which her husband was a member.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, on July 15, 2020. (Flash90)

Last October, aides to the prime minister harshly criticized Ben-Ari after she went on vacation in the middle of pre-indictment legal proceedings. A source close to Netanyahu said that she had given the impression that she had already decided the outcome of the hearings and therefore did not bother attending. The Justice Ministry defended her, but a ministry source acknowledged her actions showed a lack of public sensitivity.

Netanyahu and his allies have hit back hard at critics in recent years, accusing the police and state prosecution of an “attempted coup,” after he was indicted on bribery, breach of trust and fraud charges last year and repeatedly attacking the news media for what he claims is unfavorable coverage. He denies any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court.

Netanyahu is accused of offering to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications. He has also been charged with accepting some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.

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