About 20 years ago, then prominent Shas party official and cabinet minister Rabbi Shlomo Benizri was found guilty of breach of trust and accepting bribes, and subsequently sent to prison. The then key state witness against Benizri, contractor Moshe Sela, has come forward and explains he was pressured to lie by police and Benizri was sent to prison and his life ruined despite being an innocent man.
If we move ahead to today, Case 4000 being probed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit alleges law-breaking by some high-level corporate giants, involving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who allegedly promoted regulation to Benefit Bezeq Communications Company in return for favorable news coverage on the Bezeq-owned Walla News website.
In fact, Israel Police concluded its investigation and recommended a criminal indictment against PM Netanyahu. Then, we learned that the justice involved in the case was collaborating with one of the attorneys assigned to investigate the case. Needless to say the publication of this shocking news has led to the removal of both from the case.
A statement issued by the Attorney General’s office and the State’s Prosecutor’s office read: “The incident described goes against the core values that members of the judicial process including the judiciary and the state’s prosecutors and investigators are expected to uphold. This is an extraordinary incident and one that saddens us all. We will be conducting a disciplinary investigation with regards to the behavior of the investigator that will be undertaken by the internal investigations department.”
The collusion affair also led to the release of four suspects in the case who were in custody.
The above incident has left many Israelis wondering just how honest members of the law-enforcement and judicial systems and is there really a case against PM Netanyahu, or perhaps; those who cannot defeat him at the election polls are trying another way to unseat him, as Mr. Netanyahu claims to be the case.
Ironically, a poll was just published documenting 57% of Israelis do not trust the judicial system any longer and recent events are likely to drive that number higher.
Sela, the state witness against Benizri spoke with Galei Yisrael Radio this week and explained when police have you in that “black box” you will say whatever you are asked to say. He explains that back then, he was a single father of five, young, and threatened to never see the family again. He realized that cooperating was not a matter of choice, for if he did not perjure himself, his life as he knew it would be over.
He told Galei Yisrael, “I always maintained that Shlomo Benizri was railroaded and now I apologize but if you are not in the ‘black box’ you cannot understand the fear. I always said Shlomo Benizri was innocent and he sat in prison due to my lies.”
On 1 April 2008, Benizri was convicted of accepting bribes, breach of faith, obstructing justice, and conspiracy to commit a crime for accepting favors worth millions of shekels from his friend, contractor Moshe Sela, in exchange for inside information regarding foreign workers scheduled to arrive in Israel. On 27 April 2008, a district court sentenced him to 18 months in jail and decided that his actions amount to moral turpitude. He resigned from the Knesset the same day.
Both Benizri and the state appealed the decision. On 24 June 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the decision and prolonged Benizri’s jail time to 4 years.
Benizri began serving his sentence on September 1, 2009, in the religious division of Massiyahu prison in Ramle. His cellmate from December 7, 2011, to his release was former president Moshe Katsav.
On March 1, 2012, Benizri was released early.
Benizri lives in Jerusalem and is married with eight children.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)