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Key witness in Netanyahu trial files complaint over death threats outside court

A key witness in the criminal trial of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu filed a police complaint on Tuesday after a supporter of the former prime minister was heard making death threats against him outside the courthouse.

The man in question could be heard shouting “Nir Hefetz should die, Nir Hefetz should not live” into a megaphone at a rally outside the Jerusalem District Court, where Hefetz had been set to testify in the case against Netanyahu, who also appeared in court on Tuesday.

However, during the hearing, the judges accepted the defense’s argument that Hefetz’s testimony should be delayed by a week in order to provide time for the examination of new revelations in the case, which were widely published by Hebrew-language media on Monday.

Hefetz’s lawyer said that there had been an increase in incitement against his client in the run-up to the court hearing.

“We take seriously the escalation in incitement on social media toward Nir over the past week, and the calls and threats outside the court. Unfortunately, nothing happens by chance,” Ilan Sofer told reporters following the hearing.

The small protest outside the court stood in stark contrast to Netanyahu’s previous two appearances in court since the trial first began in 2020, both of which drew sizable rallies in support of the former prime minister.

Multiple other figures linked to the trial have been the target of harassment and incitement.

Lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari has been protected by bodyguards after receiving repeated threats.

In February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit denounced “incitement” against law enforcement officials, apparently referring to repeated attacks on the trial and the justice system by Netanyahu and his allies.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in Case 4000. He says all the allegations against him were fabricated by the police and prosecution, and denies any wrongdoing.

Hefetz made thousands of recordings of conversations during his years working with the Netanyahus, which are slated to serve as key evidence in Case 4000, which involves an alleged bribery deal in which a telecom firm received regulatory benefits in exchange for providing positive media coverage of Netanyahu.

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is alleged to have worked to illicitly and lucratively benefit the business interests of Bezeq’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on the Elovitch-owned Walla news website.

Netanyahu is accused of abusing his powers when he served as both prime minister and communications minister from 2014 to 2017.

Hefetz turned state witness after being arrested and questioned over a two-week period, and is believed to have provided prosecutors with key information as an interlocutor between Netanyahu and Elovitch.

Based on information received by Channel 13, Hefetz is expected to testify about the Netanyahus’ “obsession” with the media, particularly the Walla news site.

Spokespeople for the couple were made aware that part of their job was to “correct the historical injustice done to Sara Netanyahu as a result of her husband’s public role,” Hefetz told prosecutors.

The evidentiary phase of Netanyahu’s trial opened in April, and so far several former senior executives at the Walla website have provided testimony.

Source: TOI and Associated Press