The court spokesman announced on Tuesday that the name of “S.D.” – as the
state’s main witness in the Holyland trial was known under a gag order – was
Duchner, who died on Friday, was the main witness in the
trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and 15 other defendants. The
real estate investor, who was hospitalized multiple times throughout the trial
and had a history of chronic health problems, was born in Romania in 1937 and
was a Holocaust survivor.
He was well-known in parts of the business
world as a successful real estate investor who also knew all the ins and outs of
government planning, tax issues and how to persuade people to assist him and do
business with him.
Duchner also had significant ups and downs, including
times in his life that he was exceedingly wealthy and times when he was
practically penniless and in heavy debt.
Yet, because of his talents and
his connections to a number of public officials, Hillel Cherny, the main
investor in the Holyland project and one of the main defendants in the trial,
chose Duchner to be his primary representative promoting the Holyland
From there the narratives of the prosecution and the defendants
in the case depart.
The defendants claim that everything regarding the
Holyland project was carried out legally – or, that if Duchner did anything
illegally, it was all by his initiative or in his mind.
based mostly on Duchner’s story, alleged that Duchner was Cherny’s frontman for
bribing a plethora of public officials from Olmert to former Jerusalem mayor Uri
Lupolianski down to Jerusalem’s chief architect and anyone else needed to smooth
over legal and zoning violations regarding the Holyland project.
decision to remove the gag order was a hard-fought battle after numerous failed
attempts to do so in the past by the media and the defense attorneys.
state requested that the court keep the gag order in place at least until the
end of the shiva mourning period. It argued that waiting a few more days to
respect his family and discuss the ramifications of the removal of the gag order
would not harm anyone.
Lawyers for the media argued that the sole purpose
of the gag order had been to facilitate Duchner’s testimony. They said the state
had expressed concern that Duchner would have difficulty testifying, especially
because of his health problems, if he was openly savaged by the
But following Duchner’s death, they said, there was no longer
anything to protect and that protecting the witness’s family had never been the
basis for the gag order. The court accepted that argument and ordered it removed