Holyland trial begins in Tel Aviv District Court

16 defendants named in indictment; State witness ordered to testify 4 days a week, starting July 1.

By
February 13, 2012 13:02
3 minute read.
Holyland

Holyland 390. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The Holyland trial opened in the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday afternoon, as Judge David Rozen ordered the main state witness in the case to testify four full days a week starting on July 1.

Rozen said the state witness, the identity of whom cannot be released because of a strict gag order, will testify from 8:30 a.m. through 8 p.m. The judge’s decision came after the prosecution requested that the state witness be allowed to give his testimony early, in the light of a severe medical condition.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Sixteen defendants – 13 of them individuals, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and three of them companies – are named in the indictment, which charges that Holyland real estate developers paid tens of millions of shekels to public employees and elected officials to advance the projects. Advancements included substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over planning objections, re-zoning land, providing tax breaks and increasing the permitted amount of construction.

Indicted alongside Olmert are former Jerusalem mayor and chairman of the Jerusalem municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee Uri Lupolianski, former Jerusalem deputy mayor and city councilman Eliezer Simhayof, Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken, city councilman Avraham Finer and former city engineer Uri Shetrit.

Also charged are businessman Hillel Cherny, who owned land rights to the Holyland project, former Polar Investments CEO Avigdor Kelner, who owns a stake in Holyland, Polar Investments manager Amnon Safran, Jerusalem entrepreneur Meir Rabin and Shimon Galon, the CEO of Kardan Real Estate, which also owned a stake in the project.

In addition to the 13 defendants, three companies are also named on the indictment: Holyland Tayerut Ltd., which is held by Polar Investments; Holyland Park Ltd.; and Holyland Leisure Services Ltd., for which Cherny serves as director. Former chairman of Bank Hapoalim and Israel Salt Industries Dan Dankner and former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov Efrati are also charged with giving and receiving bribes relating to re-zoning of salt flats in Atlit and Eilat.

Almost all of the defendants and their attorneys attended the hearing, but Olmert and Zaken were notably absent. Eli Zohar and Iris Niv-Sabag, attorneys for Olmert, and Micha Pettman, attorney for Zaken, told the judge that their clients could not be present because the Holyland trial is being conducted at the same time as their other corruption trial in the Jerusalem District Court.



Rabin arrived late for the hearing, and his attorney explained that this was because of a “personal matter.” Judge Rozen said that Rabin’s personal problem was actually the defense’s problem, and that if Rabin did not show up he would be detained. Rabin eventually arrived as the hearing was ending, and received a rebuke from the judge for arguing with him.

To accommodate the unusually large number of attorneys, the court moved the hearing into its largest courtroom, which was filled to overflowing with reporters and members of the public who came to watch the proceedings.

During the largely technical arraignment hearing, the defense were expected to respond to each of the prosecution’s charges in the indictment and enter a plea. However, the defendants’ attorneys argued that they had not yet received the bulk of the evidentiary material from the prosecution.

Prosecuting attorney Liat Ben-Ari from the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office told the court that there was a “gargantuan” amount of evidentiary material, which takes up over 750 binders and 250 boxes.

Zaken’s attorney Pettman told the judge he was concerned that he would not receive the material in time to adequately prepare for the trial. Zaken has been a “full-time defendant for the last four years,” added Pettman, and said the former prime minister’s bureau chief attended court hearings four times a week.

Judge Rozen ruled that the state must do everything in its power to transfer the evidentiary material to the defendants’ attorneys within the shortest possible time.

“This may well require a special effort, and it may be that the company that photocopies the material will have to work beyond its normal working hours,” the judge said. “But because this is a special case, it is only proper that every effort is made to copy the material or to scan it within the shortest possible time.”

Related Content

Riot
August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night

By DANIEL K. EISENBUD