State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit has demanded answers from police investigators over their examination of personal data on devices belonging to top Likud officials, a report in Haaretz said. The demand came after Yonatan Urich, one of the four, said that police had examined his device and looked at data that had nothing to do with the ostensible reason for his questioning. In a letter to Mandelblit, Urich’s attorney said that police had examined conversations between Urich and another detainee, Ofer Golan, a spokesperson for the Netanyahu family. Police did not inform his client that he had the right to refuse to submit his device for examination.
According to the letter, Urich observed the police officer who seized his device copy data off it, while examining conversations that were not related to his questioning. Urich said that he had seen the officer copy the data into a file called “final aspects of Case 4000,” indicating that the data was being used for another investigation that he was not being questioned for. Such data, the letter to Mandelblit said, was tainted, as it was acquired under false pretenses and without consent or a warrant.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana said he would hold a special press conference later Tuesday to address the matter.
The four Likud officials were being questioned on the alleged harassment of Filber, a principal in Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla News Case, an influence-peddling probe that alleges that Netanyahu offered his good services to Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich in return for positive coverage on the Walla news site.
According to Filber’s attorneys, their client never filed a complaint with police, and “he has not felt threatened in real time or even after the fact. Protests outside his house do not bother him, as they are no different than protests outside the houses of public officials who are just doing their jobs.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the seizure of personal devices belonging to top Likud officials and their examination by police is “a direct attack on democracy in Israel, and in the right to privacy of all citizens,” after two more Likud officials were questioned Monday on the alleged harassment of state witness Shlomo Filber. “We do not live in a dictatorship, and there is no justification for such actions.”
Filber is a former Communications Ministry director general. According to testimony given by Filber, Netanyahu, who was acting as communications minister, provided documents and other assistance to Elovich that would benefit his holding company by improving the situation of communications firm Bezeq.
According to media reports, Filber told police under questioning Wednesday that “I carried out the direct orders of Netanyahu. I had no say in any of these matters. He made clear to me what was needed, and who was needed to accomplish his goals.” Since then, protests by right-wing groups have dogged him, with protesters following him around denouncing him for what they said were lies he told police.
Police said that an investigation had been launched on the matter of witness harassment, but did not name the witness. “The investigation is taking place under the authority of the state prosecutor and State Attorney. Beyond that we cannot release details.”