Action potentially jeopardizes admissibility of evidence and providing grounds for Netanyahu’s attorneys to seek a mistrial.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
The ongoing criminal case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dealt a serious blow on Wednesday, as Channel 13 News reported that the Justice Ministry is currently investigating suspicions that the police illegally used the Pegasus cellphone spyware to surveil witnesses in the trial.
Police use of the advanced technology must be authorized by a judge.
The Justice Ministry believes that authorities acted improperly by hacking the phones of potential witnesses, reportedly extracting content including text and Whatsapp messages, photos, and emails, without a warrant.
Because that evidence was obtained illegally, it could prove sufficient grounds for Netanyahu’s attorneys to call for a mistrial.
If the judge decides to continue with the current trial, testimony by witnesses whose phones were hacked may have their statements stripped from the record, and those who have not yet appeared in court could be barred from testifying.
Netanyahu has long maintained his innocence and said that the charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust are part of a prosecutorial conspiracy, and that the state acted illegally in building the case against him.
“We have here investigators who went on a witch hunt, and knowingly violated the law in order to [persecute] Netanyahu,” Likud MK Shlomo Karhi told 103 FM Radio in response to the report.
Karhi said that “the foundations upon which this case was built are toxic” and that the investigators who pursued charges against Netanyahu “must be put on trial.”
Noting that as most of the Israeli public supports Netanyahu as the leader of Likud — the country’s biggest political party, with nearly double the amount of voters as the second-largest party — Karhi charged that deep state actors engaged in a campaign to sully the former premier’s reputation in order to unseat him as Israel’s leader.
“We have here a leader who was pulled off his path by unacceptable means,” Karhi said. “The court cannot continue on as if nothing happened. Otherwise we are a police state.”