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Israel: Sara Netanyahu servant questioned over perjury claim

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives in the Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem on June 16, 2019. - Sara asked a Jerusalem court to approve a plea bargain convicting her for fraudulently used state funds for meals, an AFP reporter said. (Photo by DEBBIE HILL / AFP) (Photo credit should read DEBBIE HILL/AFP via Getty Images)

Two employees of the Israeli prime minister's residence are being investigated over claims they gave false testimony in a civil case against Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, to shield her from allegations of mistreatment levied by a former housekeeper.

Police suspect there had been pressures placed on the two employees to testify in Netanyahu's favour during the trial, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The two employees, alongside a senior staff member, were questioned on Sunday. Their lawyers denied they had perjured themselves.

Shira Raban filed the lawsuit three years ago, after working at the residence for a month in September 2017. Raban claims she was not allowed time to rest, use the toilet, or take breaks while she was working, and in court said Netanyahu had called her "a lump of nothing".

According to a report by the Times, Raban said that, on one occasion, Netanyahu "raised her hand to hit me. She was frightening with red eyes, in tears and when she came close I could smell the alcohol on her breath". The former housekeeper is suing for 225,000 shekels ($64,000) in damages.

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Netanyahu has denied the claims, backed by testimonies from two employees. One of the witnesses, Liora Babian, however, has since said she signed the affidavit in the office of Netanyahu's lawyer without being fully aware of its contents.

The Times of Israel reported Babian told the legal adviser of the prime minister's office that she had lied in the document, countering the claims of Raban's mistreatment.

The legal advisor informed the state prosecutor of the development, sparking a police investigation. The prosecutor's office has since sought to delay the trial by a month to allow time for new evidence to come to light.

The second employee has maintained her original testimony, and according to Israel's Channel 13 told investigators, "you are chasing after [Benjamin] Netanyahu, you are seeking to bring him down. I stand behind my affidavit. Every word of it is true".

The Netanyahu family lawyer condemned the police investigation in a statement, saying: "It is highly irregular for the police to interfere in a civil proceeding and make this into a criminal investigation and another needless case against the prime minister's wife."

The lawyer accused Israel's attorney-general of having "a biased and an obsessive tendency against the Netanyahu family in an attempt to topple the prime minister".

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Benjamin Netanyahu is currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases.

Meanwhile, his Netanyahu has faced similar accusations of abusive behaviour towards her staff in recent years. In 2016, a court ruled she had mistreated a housekeeper and awarded him $37,600 in damages.

While in June 2019, she was convicted of misusing public funds as part of a plea bargain in the "Prepared Food Affair".

Under the deal, Sara confessed to the charge of intentionally exploiting another person's error in the misuse of state funds but escaped a conviction for aggravated fraud.

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