National Union chairman and Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday morning responded harshly to a report by News 12 journalist Amit Segal regarding police questionable conduct in interrogations of former Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz who later turned state’s witness.
“Reports on an investigation involving Nir Hefetz and their cover-up attempts reduce public confidence in the police in Netanyahu’s cases to below zero,” Smotrich said.
The Justice Ministry obtained a gag order on publishing Segal’s findings that the police had applied extraordinary pressure in order to get Netanyahu’s former adviser Nir Hefetz to sign a state’s witness agreement.
Case 4000 against PM Netanyahu (the Bezeq-Walla Case) is largely based on the testimony of his former adviser, and transcripts of the latter’s interrogation leaked on Monday to Channel 12 raise questions about the entire testimony.
According to those transcripts, after signing an agreement with the state, Hefetz told interrogators about meetings that never happened, changing his versions several times, in what appears to be his attempts to please his interrogators.
At the same time, information that reached News 12 raises the suspicion that police interrogators used improper pressures against Hefetz in order to get him to sign a state’s witness agreement and to replace his attorney with one that would be more acceptable to the police.
Hefetz suffered from memory problems on the question of whether or not Netanyahu, in his capacity as Communications Minister, had ordered Hefetz to instruct the ministry’s director general to slow down the rate of the communications giant Bezeq’s price drop, which would help the owner of both Bezeq and the Walla news website, Shaul Elovitch.
On another occasion, Hefetz even described events that could not possibly have take place, but according to the leaked transcript, the interrogator suggested he delete those problematic details. For instance, Hefetz testified that Elovitch had sought an extended deadline before he approved a Bezeq deal with the cable provider Yes, even though Elovitch had never asked for one.
According to Smotrich, “Interrogations of this kind, conducted under physical and mental torture of the subjects, are common in dark, totalitarian regimes, and not in democratic states.”
“The scandalous cover-up attempt, carried out with anxiety and panic by law enforcement officials, makes the prosecution’s conduct seven times more suspicious and severe,” said Smotrich, adding, “I demand that the Attorney General immediately remove the gag order so that we can verify that the Prime Minister’s interrogations were conducted with the purpose of finding out the truth and not, God forbid, the opposite.”
“I will propose to the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the conduct of the interrogators in the prime minister’s cases.”
As part of their efforts to pressure Hefetz, according to Segal, the police summoned another person who was unrelated to Case 4000, and during his interrogation he was asked questions about some embarrassing personal details – all in order to pressure Hefetz to turn state’s witness and fire his lawyer.
The pressures worked: according to Segal, the next day Hefetz replaced his lawyer and signed the agreement.
Amit Segal told Reshet Bet radio that it was the interrogator in the suspicious sessions that resulted in the Hefetz capitulation who now obtained the media gag order.
According to Segal, of all the thousands of details in the Case 4000 testimonies that were given over to the defense, only those scandalous interrogation transcripts had been omitted.
Segal told Reshet Bet that the responsibility for the corrupt investigation falls on the shoulders of AG Avichai Mandelblit, whether he knew about it and approved it, or didn’t know about it while it was being conducted behind his back.
Netanyahu’s attorney Yossi Ashkenazi on Monday morning told Jerusalem Radio that “the investigation of Nir Hefetz crossed all the red lines. They applied to him illegal pressures to break him down.”
“This case does not stand without the Nir Hefetz testimony,” Ashkenazi noted, “And if this thing falls it has a crucial meaning: Case 4000 has collapsed.”