Man probed over death threats to lead prosecutor in Netanyahu trial

Suspect identified using DNA samples from August 2020 letter to Liat Ben-Ari saying her life will be made so miserable she’ll die by suicide; he denies charge

Chief investigative reporter for Zman Israel, The Times of Israel's sister Hebrew website

Liat Ben-Ari, prosecutor in the corruption trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing in the trial, April 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Liat Ben-Ari, prosecutor in the corruption trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing in the trial, April 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

The Israel Police is investigating a man suspected of threatening to cause the death of Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after he was identified using DNA from a letter he allegedly sent, Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, reported Sunday.

Ben-Ari has faced intense criticism, pressure and threats since the trial began last year, and security around her was increased last summer after police reportedly received intelligence that the danger had become more serious.

The prime minister’s defenders have harshly criticized Ben-Ari and other members of the law enforcement community whom they accuse, without evidence, of attempting to unseat Netanyahu for political reasons.

In one case last August, a letter was left in Ben-Ari’s mailbox that threatened to make her life so miserable that she would commit suicide, the contents of which Zman Yisrael revealed last November.

Liat Ben-Ari (Screen capture: YouTube)

“Scum of the earth, corrupt Liat Ben-Ari, we are in favor of Bibi, we will make your life miserable until you commit suicide,” the error-ridden Hebrew-language letter said. “We will look you in the eye every day, you fucker.”

The letter was signed with the names of Orly Lev and Itzik Zarka, two Likud activists who have been leading protests against Ben-Ari and other law enforcement officials.

But both denied having anything to do with the letter, and police believe that it was sent by a man called Moshe Alon.

The cyber department of police’s Lahav 433 special crimes unit has recently told the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court that during the investigation, “DNA samples were collected for comparison to the seized threat letter.”

It added that “the suspect has been questioned under caution on suspicion of committing the crimes and gave his version.”

Alon’s lawyer, Susie Ozsinay Aranya, told Zman that her client has denied the charges and the matter is still being investigated, with no conclusion reached.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at a hearing in his corruption trial at Jerusalem District Court, April 5, 2021. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in February denounced the incitement against law enforcement officials and particularly against Ben-Ari.

Speaking at a conference organized by the right-wing Besheva newspaper, Mandelblit appeared to refer to repeated attacks on the justice system by Netanyahu and his allies.

“The inflammatory rhetoric and personal attacks against the top enforcers of the law did not exist in the past,” Mandelblit said. “The incitement won’t deter us.

“Criticism is okay. However, getting to a point where we see the lead prosecutor going around with bodyguards and inappropriate remarks are hurled at her is very worrying. But that won’t deter her or me, and we will continue to safeguard the rule of law in the State of Israel,” he said.

“There is an attempt to delegitimize Liat Ben-Ari,” Mandelblit added. “Ben-Ari is doing a great job. I give her my full support.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at an event at Bar Ilan University, March 4, 2020. (Flash90)

Netanyahu has also launched scathing attacks against Mandelblit, whom he appointed and who served previously as his cabinet secretary, since the attorney general indicted him in 2019.

In one harangue last year, the prime minister accused the attorney general of being part of a deep-state conspiracy that includes top officials in the police, the state prosecution and the legal system who supposedly aim to oust the premier for political reasons.

The prime minister’s trial picked up last week with the start of the evidentiary phase.

Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in Case 4000, which involves suspicions that he granted regulatory favors benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecoms, in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister and his family from the Bezeq-owned Walla news site. The Elovitches also face bribery charges in the case.

Netanyahu also faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000. The former involves suspicions Netanyahu illicitly accepted 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.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom. Mozes was charged with bribery in the case.

Netanyahu, who is the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office, denies any wrongdoing and has railed against the courts, prosecution, and media for what he terms a “witch hunt.” He alleges the state prosecution, police, media and opposition are framing him in an attempted political coup.

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