Israeli media magnate Ofer Nimrodi went on trial Monday on charges of plotting to murder a private eye who testified against him in a wiretapping scandal involving a rival newspaper.
The Israeli press flocked to Tel Aviv district court to attend the hearing in a case of alleged conspiracy, corruption and blackmail that has gripped the nation since details were first revealed in October.
Nimrodi, publisher of the country's second top-selling Hebrew newspaper Maariv, is suspected of plotting to kill private investigator Yaacov Tzur, who turned state's evidence in an illicit wiretapping case against him.
The media magnate, who has been in custody for six months, is being tried on eight charges, including conspiracy to murder, obstruction of justice, suborning witnesses and giving bribes.
"This long and unjustified detention is depressing and humiliating, it's difficult to conduct a trial in this way," the Israeli newsagency ITIM quoted Nimrodi as saying before the trial began.
Over 100 witnesses are expected to testify, including senior political officials, Israeli radio said.
Nimrodi was sentenced in 1999 to eight months in jail for wire-tapping Israel's most widely read paper the Yediot Aharonot in a bitter circulation war but was released in February after serving just over half of his sentence.
Another private detective, Rafi Friedan, had confessed to the police that Nimrodi had offered him more than half a million dollars to murder Tzur in Thailand. The murder was never carried out.
Nimrodi has vehemently protested his innocence, saying he was a victim of blackmail by Friedan, a former accomplice in the bugging scandal.
He is one of Israel's richest men, heading a family empire worth 150 million dollars spanning insurance, property media and telecommunications - TEL AVIV (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)