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Israeli justice minister breaks gag order in bid to save scandal-stricken Netanyahu Open in fullscreen

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Israeli justice minister breaks gag order in bid to save scandal-stricken Netanyahu

Amir Ohana [L] violated a gag order relating to an investigation against Netanyahu [R] [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2019

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Israel's justice minister broke a court-imposed gag order on Wednesday in what has been widely seen as an attempt to defend scandal-stricken PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana has come under fire from senior Israeli officials after violating a court-imposed gag order relating to a corruption probe against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Addressing Knesset podium on Wednesday, Ohana invoked his immunity as a lawmaker to disclose what he said was the interrogation method used on Nir Hefetz - a former Netanyahu spokesman. The move is widely seen as an attempt to discredit the probe against Israel's embattled leader.

The method used to get Hefetz to turn state witness against the prime minister became the subject of a gag order earlier this week as it came close to being revealed in the media.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan blasted Ohana's remarks as "extremely grave and a distortion of reality".

The minister's actions were "part of a series of tendentious and partial reports meant to deceive the public", the pair said in a joint statement quoted by Haaretz.

Mendelbit and Nitzan also dismissed Netanyahu's proposal that his hearing be broadcast for public viewing, while also vowing to continue their work.

Read more: Netanyahu aides might have harassed witnesses in corruption case levelled against Israeli premier

"These reports create a misleading representation of the facts and the sequence of events during the investigation,” they said.

"Nothing will deter us from continuing to fulfill our task… We will not allow any undermining of the legal process, which will continue in an orderly fashion."

'Blackmail'

Ohana had attempted on Wednesday to expose the methods used by police on Hefetz, saying they had used threats and intimidation.

"Then they bring in a young woman who has nothing to do with the prime minister’s investigation, and ask her a series of intrusive questions on the nature of the relationship between the witness [Hefetz] and her," he said in the Knesset session.

"He's then taken out with one of the investigators, they leave for an undocumented period of time and we don’t know what went on in that conversation, and then he comes back and gives a full version, tailor-made, that perfectly matches the evidence the police have," he continued.

According to Israeli media reports, Ohana's claims were based on a report by the News1 website.

On the same day, Netanyahu distanced himself from Ohana's actions, saying that the gag order "must be respected" despite the "blackmailing" of Hefetz.

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