A year after the last indictment against David Appel was filed, the businessman's corruption trial finally began on Tuesday - and was adjourned after just half an hour for another five months.
Appel pleaded not guilty to charges of bribing public officials. The longest discussion in the half hour meeting addressed when all the sides could meet again. The judges are unable to take up the case until September, when the trial will reconvene for three days only. Then, it will not resume until January. Thenceforth, the trial will continue for three days a week until it finishes. Prosecutor Anat Savidor Goldenzweig said the proceedings have been delayed for so long not only because of heavy schedules but also because of numerous defense requests to receive material from the investigation, including the transcripts of 85,000 telephone calls (some of which the defense actually did receive).
Goldenzweig believes the time and effort are worth it. "Despite the indictment consisting of fewer charges, they are still important," she said in the courthouse.
The prosecutor also commented that there is public interest in the trial "because the case is about public corruption . The public is very worried by it, and the time and effort are available to invest in this." She added, "I hope that at the end of the process he will be found guilty."
Appel's lawyer, Moshe Yisrael, was confident that he would win despite Omri Sharon's conviction on corruption charges. "That doesn't bother me at all. We know the evidence, we know what there is, we know what Appel did and didn't do. He didn't give any bribes and this will be seen in court," he said. He also claimed success so far, "Before there was an indictment that referred to Appel as somebody who bribed the prime minister. Today we have a shriveled-up charge sheet."
Appel was originally accused of bribing former prime minister Ariel Sharon, prime minister Ehud Olmert and former MK Nehama Ronen. These charges were dropped after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz closed the cases against the three politicians, all of whom were investigated on suspicion of receiving bribes from Appel.
However, there remain charges against the businessman. He is accused of contributing to the election campaigns of Lod mayor Benny Regev and former head of the Givat Shmuel local council Zamir Ben-Ari. Regev and Ben-Ari are suspected of helping Appel with building projects in return. Appel is also accused of persuading Oded Tal, the then-deputy head of the Israel Lands Authority's central district branch, to change the terms of Appel's bid for a construction project in Givat Shmuel after Appel had won the tender, when according to the terms of the tender, no such changes were permitted.