Judge, lawyer off case after coordinating a ruling in corruption probe

"We will ask for a few more days," wrote Shavit, "but you can give us two". "I will have to look really, really, surprised," Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz responded.

February 25, 2018 22:08
1 minute read.
Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elovich and Tel Aviv Court Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz

Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elovich and Tel Aviv Court Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ISRAELI JUSTICE MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz stepped down from the “Bezeq-media case” on Sunday after she was caught exchanging text messages with Israel Securities Authority attorney Eran Shaham-Shavit about detention proceedings.

The latest twist in the investigation – for which two of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides have been in police custody for the past week – was first reported by Channel 10 news. That was followed by an announcement from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut saying they would refer Poznanski-Katz, the pre-trial judge in what is known as Case 4000, for potential disciplinary action.

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PM Netanyahu reacts to claims against him in Case 4000 (Facebook-Benjamin Netanyahu)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit also ordered a disciplinary probe of Shaham-Shavit on Sunday, who will be suspended pending completion of the probe against him. Photographs of the texting between Poznanski-Katz and Shaham-Shavit appeared to show them planning how many days of detention various suspects in Case 4000 would get. There was no comment by press time from the Securities Authority.

Coordination, in which defense lawyers get to weigh in on arguments by the state outside the public process, can be grounds for overturning an extended detention order.

Poznanski-Katz will step aside from running the case, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court spokesman’s office announced Sunday night. The judge voluntarily stepped aside and is being replaced by Judge Ala Masrawa.

The court spokesman’s office said that Poznanski-Katz would not conduct any further in-court hearings pending the completion of the disciplinary process and noted that she was about to enter a sabbatical year.

The “Bezeq case” is an investigation into allegations that Netanyahu ordered his top aide, Shlomo Filber, whom he installed as director-general of the Communications Ministry, to make policy rulings in favor of the telecommunications giant. In exchange, the news site Walla! is alleged to have agreed to give positive news coverage to Netanyahu as dictated by his aide, Nir Hefetz, and possibly by Sara Netanyahu.

The go-between in the alleged exchange is Shaul Elovitch, who owns both Walla! and Bezeq.

It appears that the suspects being texted about, who were referred to mainly by first name, were Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, along with various other Bezeq officials.

Several politicians and at least one NGO immediately issued statements attacking the judge and the lawyer and called for harsh steps to be taken against them.

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