(photo credit: Channel 2)
The parents of babies that died or suffered severe harm after being fed Remedia brand formula have waited over five years to see the suspects face prosecutors in court, but the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court ruled Wednesday that the parents would have to wait a bit longer, as the court delayed the commencement of the trial until July.
Before the extension was granted, however, all eight suspects - three senior corporate officials and five Health Ministry employees - pleaded not guilty to the charges issued against them.
The suspects include Gideon Landsberger, who was the general manager of Remedia; company owner Moshe Miller; and Frederick Black, who was in charge of quality control and research and development. The Health Ministry defendants are Dr. Dorit Nitzan-Kaluski, head of the National Food Service at the time, and four inspectors - Nasreen Khouri, Yosef Haskel, Berta Shvum and Raisa Parvarov.
This was not the first time the parents were told they would have to wait. In October 2008, lawyers for some of the defendants told the judge that they had not had enough time to prepare their defense and complained that the prosecution had failed to supply all the necessary evidence. They asked to postpone the trial for a year, but the judge delayed the court date by fewer than five months.
"Our children should have been entering first grade," said Amir Neti, father of Neta, who suffered severe disabilities as a result of drinking the formula. "Instead, the system is dragging its feet and the defense attorneys are looking for every piece of paper to delay the trial."
He added, "It's important to emphasize that none of us expect that this trial will return our children to a healthy state. The goal of this trial is for the people responsible to receive the maximum punishment to set an example so that nothing like this happens again in Israel."
"You need to come and see my daughter," said Eli Nahmani outside of the courtroom. "They delay the trial, delay and delay it all the time and they don't understand how I live. I live with a daughter who is disabled, a daughter who suffers convulsions all day long. They should come and live with me. I don't mean the media, I mean the lawyers.... They sit at home and drink coffee on their couches while we care for disabled children.
This time, the defendants' lawyer, Nati Simhoni, argued that the trial could not begin until they received necessary evidence from Germany, where the corporate offices of Milchwerke Westfalen EG (Humana GmbH) - the company that supplied the powder to the Remedia company in Israel - are based.
According to the indictment, the harm the babies suffered was a result of the German-based supplier's not including vitamin B-1 (Thiamin supplement) in a new formula it began manufacturing in 2003. Although senior officials in Remedia allegedly knew that Humana had decided to stop adding the vitamin, it did nothing about it.
Furthermore, Remedia reportedly retained the old list of ingredients on the label of each tin of new formula. The list stated that the new formula included 385 micrograms of vitamin B-1 for each 100 grams of formula, even though this was untrue.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.