Efi Naveh appears in court, January 16th, 2019.
(photo credit: REUVEN CASTRO)
The police arrested Israel Bar Association President Efi Nave, a magistrate’s court judge and the wife of another magistrate’s court judge on Wednesday under suspicion of involvement in a scheme of sexual favors for judicial appointments.
Even as the identities of two of the three suspects are currently under gag order, the police are expected to bring Nave to court late Wednesday night to litigate regarding whether and under what conditions he can be released.
The other two suspects reportedly will be released from the police station with conditions.
The suspects have been questioned nearly all day since the morning.
Some or all members of the powerful judicial selection committee will be required to testify in the affair, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
Also on Wednesday, two announcements came out of the Israel Bar Association.
One announcement implied that Nave was suspending his activities in favor of lawyer Uri Keinan and another announcement said that, in light of the criminal investigation’s developments, the IBA’s national council would hold an emergency meeting on Sunday.
Separately from Wednesday’s developments. Nave has been recently indicted for defrauding Ben Gurion’s customs check point relating to actions by him and a female partner.
Earlier this week, three senior members of the IBA resigned their posts saying that their concerns about corruption prevented them from continuing.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan is personally overseeing the current probe as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recused himself from involvement in the case due to a close friendship with the senior lawyer who is the central suspect.
Nave is being investigated for demanding sexual favors from the wife-suspect of a magistrate’s judge who was seeking promotion to become a district court judge a couple years ago.
The interrogators raided the house of some of the suspects and later arrested them.
According to reports, the police have incriminating text messages between the wife-suspect of the magistrate’s judge and the central suspect.
Reports also indicate that the wife-suspect is admitting having contacts with the central suspect, but denying any foul play.
The wife has told police that the time period of her contact with the central suspect does not line up to the time period when her husband was seeking a judicial promotion. She has added that in any event her husband was not promoted.
"The police today allowed partial publication of details of the affair that embarrasses the judicial system," former president of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinisch said on Army Radio in regard to the allegations. "It seems that something very serious has happened here regarding the procedure of the appointment of judges to the courts."
Opposition leader MK Shelly Yachimovich said in a statement that the "judicial selection committee operated under terror and corruption, under the destruction leadership of Justice Minister [Ayelet] Shaked, and the rotten environment and broken alliances that created it are the ground for the horrific affair being exposed today."
"The judges, members of the committee, were forces to act in a…threatening atmosphere," added Yachimovich.
Shaked and Hayut issued an unusual joint statement on Wednesday rejecting any allegations of broad-based corruption in the appointment of judges.
The statement said that so far, only two judges' appointments are being probed in contrast to the 334 judges and registrars appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee under Shaked.
In addition, the statement said that they trust the police to get to the truth regarding the investigation and that they hope the probe will be completed speedily so as to remove any questions about the legal establishment beyond those few suspected.
Despite Shaked and Hayut's joint-statement, MK Revital Swed blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaked for the scandal and politicizing the judicial system.
"The new affair highlights the four-year campaign of destruction, in which the prime minister and the justice minister abused the judicial system, politicizing it" Swed said. "When this is the norm on the, it is no wonder that the committee for the appointment of judges is also desecrated.
Also on Wednesday, Hayut sent a public letter to all of the country's judges calling on them to "continue to believe in ourselves" and to continue to perform their duties honorably. She added that the judicial branch has faced hard times in the past and that this probe is definitely a low, but that the judiciary would brave the storm and continue to show that most judges serve honorably.