Lawyers in Netanyahu trial say no illegal phone taps found

AP , Sunday 13 Feb 2022

Prosecutors in the high-profile corruption case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that police have found no unlawful use of phone surveillance technology against witnesses in the trial.

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges Nov. 16, 2021, in Jerusalem. Israel s police commissioner is rushing back from an official trip to deal with a growing scandal over reports of illegal police surveillance, including of members of Netanyahu s inner circle. AP

The state attorney's response to the court came a week after an Israeli newspaper report alleged that police used spyware to hack the phones of numerous former ministry directors, mayors, and protest leaders. Among the alleged targets were a key state witness in the trial against Netanyahu and some of the former prime minister's close aides.

The prosecutor's office told the Jerusalem District Court that police officials who looked into the matter did not find any cases of surveillance without a court order in the three corruption cases involving Netanyahu.

It asked the court for additional time for a probe conducted by the attorney general's office to investigate the allegations more comprehensively before responding.

Israeli business newspaper Calcalist first reported that police had illegally used Israel's NSO Group's spyware Pegasus, prompting a high-level investigation and halting the opposition leader's corruption trial.

Netanyahu is on trial for alleged fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. The witness whose phone was reportedly hacked, Shlomo Filber, was set to testify last week when the story broke. The court canceled hearings in the trial last week to allow prosecutors time to respond to claims about the alleged hacking of Netanyahu's associates' phones.

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