State witness threatens to sue justice minister; demands apology, compensation

State witness threatens to sue justice minister; demands apology, compensation

Gagged details on Nir Hefetz’s investigation were revealed publicly by Amir Ohana last week; the former Netanyahu aide has vowed it won’t go unanswered

Nir Hefetz arrives at court in Tel Aviv, November 10, 2019. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Nir Hefetz arrives at court in Tel Aviv, November 10, 2019. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

State’s witness Nir Hefetz sent a pre-lawsuit notice Monday to Justice Minister Amir Ohana, warning him of his intent to take him to court for breaking a gag order to describe alleged misconduct by police in his interrogation, thus violating his privacy.

Hefetz, a former aide and confidant to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 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 considered the most serious of the three graft cases facing Netanyahu.

At the Knesset last week, Ohana 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.

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.

When the two met, investigators allegedly told Hefetz, according to Ohana, that “we know everything and will drop a bomb on your family.”

In a letter to Ohana, Hefetz’s lawyers demanded a public apology from the minister for spilling the details, giving him until next Tuesday to comply. They also said the minister would be expected to discuss compensation “for the damage caused to [Hefetz].”

Amir Ohana speaking in the Knesset on November 6, 2019. (Adina Wellman / Knesset spokespersons office)

Following Ohana’s speech, Hefetz called his actions “shameful and disgraceful” in a statement delivered by his attorney Ilan Sofer.

“It’s shameful and disgraceful for a justice minister to run roughshod over the law and scorn an explicit gag order by the courts, from the Knesset podium,” Sofer said.

He called the Likud minister’s comments “a shameful attempt to score political points while seriously harming [Hefetz’s] privacy,” vowing Ohana’s actions “will not go unanswered.”

Channel 12 also quoted a source “close to Hefetz” on insisting there was “no connection” between police questioning and Hefetz’s decision to turn state’s witness.

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

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

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

On Sunday Hefetz angrily stormed out of a court hearing on whether to remove a gag order on details of the police investigation in his case.

“You’re spilling my blood. Just lead me to the gallows,” Hefetz shouted at the Tel Aviv District Court judge for permitting an open hearing.

“It’s a scandal,” he said. “You’re going to get me killed.”

Media outlets had requested a partial removal of the gag order on the case.

Opposing the lifting of the order, lawyer Shuli Eshbol argued that another figure linked to the case would be exposed.

Hefetz’s lawyers argued that opening the hearings violated his privacy and could increase “threats and pressure on a state’s witness,” which were being directed at him “by none other than the prime minister.”

After the hearing, Hefetz said that his testimony was “unvarnished truth” and predicted that the court would agree should the case against Netanyahu come to trial.

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