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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this June 16, 2019 file photo, Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears in the Magistrate Court, for a hearing on a plea deal over the misuse of state funds for meals at the premier's residence, in Jerusalem. Israeli police said Sunday, May 31, 2020, that it was investigating possible false testimony by two employees of the prime minister’s official residence to favor Sara Netanyahu in a civil lawsuit against her.(Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP, File)

JERUSALEM -- Israeli police Sunday said they were investigating whether two employees at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence gave false testimony in a civil case against his wife, Sara Netanyahu -- reportedly in order to help her fend off accusations of mistreating a housekeeper.

Sara Netanyahu faces a civil lawsuit from former employee Shira Raban, who claims the premier's wife mistreated her during a brief stint working at the residence. Raban seeks $63,000 in damages over alleged mistreatment and harassment.

Israeli police confirmed an investigation "is being conducted with the approval of the Attorney General and the supervision of the State Attorney's Office."

They gave no further details. But Channel 12 TV said two other employees at the residence were alleged to have been pressured to give false testimony in Sara Netanyahu's favor.

The announcement came just a week after Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to stand trial on corruption charges, a case that has deeply divided the country. Netanyahu opened the trial with renewed attacks on the media, prosecutors and police, accusing them of attempting to depose him. He has denied any wrongdoing.

A lawyer for the prime minister, Yossi Cohen, accused Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit of "manipulating the Israeli police for an obsessive and systematic chase after the Netanyahu family in an attempt to topple the prime minister of Israel."

Netanyahu and his wife have a reputation for leading indulgent lives at public expense, in stark contrast with most Israelis. Sara Netanyahu has been accused of excessive spending and abusive behavior toward her staff.

Last year, a Jerusalem court ordered her to pay a fine of more than $15,000 for misusing state funds for expensive meals. In 2016, a court ruled she had mistreated a housekeeper and awarded the man $42,000 in damages.

SHOOTING APOLOGY

Also Sunday, Israel's defense minister apologized for the deadly shooting by police of an unarmed, autistic Palestinian man.

The shooting of Iyad Halak, 32, in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, drew broad condemnation and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces.

Benny Gantz, who is also Israel's "alternate" prime minister under a power-sharing deal, made the remarks at the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. Netanyahu made no mention of the incident in his opening remarks.

"We are really sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share in the family's grief," Gantz said. "I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached."

Halak's relatives said he had autism and was heading to a school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot.

In a statement, Israeli police said they spotted a suspect "with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol." When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire, the statement said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later said no weapon was found.

Israeli media reported the officers involved were questioned and a lawyer representing one of them sent his condolences to the family in an interview with Israeli Army Radio.

Lone Palestinian attackers with no clear links to armed groups have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in recent years.

Palestinians and Israeli human-rights groups have long accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force in some cases, either by killing individuals who could have been arrested or using lethal force when their lives were not in danger.

Some pro-Palestinian activists compared Saturday's shooting to the recent cases of police violence in the U.S.

A Section on 06/01/2020

Print Headline: Testimony probed in Netanyahu suit

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