Holyland still on hold 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Tuesday that a single judge would hear the
Holyland real estate corruption case, and not a panel of three judges as
requested by the state. The court is expected to announce within days which
judge is to hear the case.
In refusing the state’s request for a panel of
judges, Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner said that the Holyland
case was “no different than many other cases dealt with across the court system
by a single judge.”
Future Holyland towers to be smaller than planned
Last Thursday, the State Attorney’s Office filed
indictments in the Tel Aviv District Court against 13 people in connection with
the Holyland affair, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
indictment charges that Holyland real estate developers paid tens of millions of
shekels to public employees and elected officials to advance the projects by,
among other things, substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over
planning objections, rezoning land, giving tax breaks and increasing the
permitted amount of construction.
Some of the charges on the indictment
also relate to alleged bribery in rezoning salt flats in Eilat and Atlit, a
scandal dubbed the Israel Salt Industries affair, and to alleged bribes to
promote real estate interests in Yavor Farm, Shalem Farm and Mevhur Farm, north
of Kiryat Gat.
In its request that the case be held before a panel of
three judges rather than a single judge, the state said the indictment referred
to charges that were “extensive, complex and unprecedented in scope in which
entrepreneurs gave bribes to a long list of elected officials and public
employees.” It added that the trial would have “far-reaching and significant
implications both legally and for the public.”
Lawyers for Dan Dankner
and Meir Rabin, two of those implicated in the affair, objected to the state’s
request for a panel, saying that the legal system had dealt with similar cases
in the past without requiring three judges.
In rejecting the state’s
request, Berliner further added that rulings made by a single judge were no less
meaningful than those made by a panel, and that the offenses attributed to the
Holyland defendants did not require more than one judge.
“It is the
nature of the offenses, and not the identity of the defendants, that dictate the
size of the judicial panel,” Berliner said.