State witness Hefetz sues Yair Netanyahu for NIS 500,000 for breach of privacy

State witness Hefetz sues Yair Netanyahu for NIS 500,000 for breach of privacy

Former aide claims PM’s son tweeted details about investigation with the aim of humiliating him, hurting his family, and undermining his testimony

Yair Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, June 5, 2018. (Flash90)
Yair Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, June 5, 2018. (Flash90)

Nir Hefetz, a former aide and confidant to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who turned state’s witness, on Monday filed a lawsuit against Yair Netanyahu, the premier’s son.

Hefetz claims the younger Netanyahu breached a gag order and Hefetz’s privacy by exposing on Twitter details about an investigation into Hefetz.

The lawsuit claims 500,000 NIS ($144,000) in damages.

“There can be no disputing that the defendant’s malicious posting was done with the intention of violating the plaintiff’s privacy, hurt his family and humiliate him, as well as undermine the credibility of his testimony,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit refers to the wording used by Netanyahu when he exposed the prohibited information, saying that it refers to “a mistress that could break up the the state witness’s family.”

“The defendant was aware from the outset of the violation of the plaintiff’s privacy and modesty, and the immense damage that the publication could cause him,” it says.

Former Prime Minister’s Office manager Nir Hefetz, (center) Israeli media tycoon, Shaul Elovitch (left back) and Eli Kamir (right back), seen at the courtroom for the extension of their remand in Case 4000, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Hefetz is a key witness in Case 4000, which involves suspicions the premier pushed regulations benefiting Bezeq-controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site. It is seen as the most severe of the three graft cases leveled against the prime minister and includes a bribery charge.

In November, Hefetz filed a civil lawsuit against Justice Minister Amir Ohana for his defying a gag order by publicly detailing alleged misconduct by police during Hefetz’s interrogation.

Ohana had railed against what he said was police misconduct in leaning on Hefetz to testify against Netanyahu, revealing details of alleged illegitimate pressure tactics used by investigators that had been sealed by the court, supposedly to protect Hefetz’s privacy.

Speaking at the Knesset in November, Ohana, who has parliamentary immunity, described how investigators called in a woman who was not directly connected to Case 4000 for questioning, asked her “invasive and intrusive” questions about her relationship with Hefetz, then engineered an “accidental” meeting between the woman and Hefetz in the hallway to pressure him. After the two met, investigators allegedly told Hefetz, according to Ohana, that “we know everything and will drop a bomb on your family.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, left, and Justice Minister Amir Ohana attend the annual Justice conference in Airport City, outside Tel Aviv, September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Hefetz’s attorneys accused Ohana of making “wrongful, contemptible and malicious use of the Knesset platform to hurt Nir Hefetz and his family and to attempt to dissuade him from [sticking to] the true testimony he provided.”

Ohana used the Hefetz investigation to assert that the justice system was acting with malicious intent against the prime minister, accusing it of “protecting criminals” and allowing “rot to take over.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit vowed to look into possible wrongdoing by investigators. But he also issued an unprecedented rebuke of Ohana’s claims, saying they were an attempt to “mislead the public” for the premier’s political gain.

Hefetz also filed a lawsuit against radio commentator Yakov Bardugo. His attorneys allege that Bardugo disseminated details of the gagged information in a WhatsApp Likud group with hundreds of members.

Yair Netanyahu has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media, including one that appeared to perpetrate an anti-Semitic trope about Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros secretly controlling the world.

Mandelblit in November announced his intention to indict the prime minister, charging him with fraud and breach of trust in all three cases, as well as bribery in Case 4000. The premier denies wrongdoing, has accused police and state prosecutors of an “attempted coup” against him, and is seeking to gain immunity from prosecution.

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