Holyland case to be heard by single judge, not panel

The state had requested a panel of three judges hear the case; Tel Aviv District Court President says case "no different" than others.

Holyland still on hold 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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.”
RELATED: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.
The 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.