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Court Convicts Former Publisher

October 11, 2001

JERUSALEM (AP) _ An Israeli court convicted a former newspaper publisher of breach of trust and intimidating a witness Thursday, but in a plea bargain dropped a charge that he tried to arrange the murder of a witness.

Ofer Nimrodi, whose family owns the Maariv daily in partnership with Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, had been held in prison for 15 months during the trial. His sentence is to be handed down within a few days.

The Nimrodi trials have riveted Israel _ particularly the allegation that he attempted to hire somebody to kill private investigator Yaakov Tsur, a prosecution witness in an earlier wiretapping case. There was a plea bargain in that case and the charge was dropped.

Nimrodi was also convicted Thursday of obstructing justice and falsifying documents, Justice Ministry spokesman Yaakov Galunty said.

The prosecution is asking for a three-year prison term, while Nimrodi’s attorneys want the 15 months he has already served to be deducted from the total.

The two sides have already agreed that Nimrodi will pay a $80,000 fine.

After the plea bargain was accepted, Nimrodi expressed pleasure that the most serious charges were dropped. He said they were ``lies.″ Talking to reporters, he admitted to ``making mistakes while under the pressure of extortion.″

Prosecutor Penina Gai said, ``it was very important to us that he should confess in court.″ Nimrodi had pledged to fight all the charges to the end.

The wiretapping began around 1994 when Maariv and its main rival, Yediot Ahronot, were involved in a circulation war.

Testimony during the latest trial, in the Tel Aviv District Court, led to the arrest of leading police and prisons service officers on corruption charges.

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