Politicians call for investigation after judge-lawyer collusion exposed

Has the corruption case against Netanyahu been tainted? 

By: Yona Schnitzer/TPS, AP and World Israel News Staff

Israel’s judicial and political scenes were reeling Monday after possible collusion between a prosecutor and a judge presiding over a high-profile corruption case, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is named, was exposed.

A report by Israel’s Channel 10 News revealed Sunday that Tel Aviv District Court Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz and Israel Securities Authority lawyer Eran Shacham-Shavit maintained a dialogue in which Shavit alerted the judge as to which suspects, several of whom are Netanyahu confidants, the prosecution would request continue to be detained.

The two are suspected of coordinating the number of days that suspects would be detained via the WhatsApp messaging app.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Monday for a criminal investigation into the alleged collusion between the public prosecutor and the judge presiding over the Case 4000 Bezeq corruption case.

“When you see a judge coordinating her rulings with the prosecution, it’s really a shocking thing, and in my opinion a criminal offense,” Erdan told IDF Radio. “It’s worth considering opening a criminal investigation; this is a serious incident, and it’s pretty clear that their careers are over. Who will believe them now?” he added.

The report’s exposed messages show that the prosecutor and judge maintained close contact.

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“Try and act surprised in the courtroom,” Shavit wrote, to which Poznansky-Katz responded “I’m practicing my surprised face.”

Inquiry Launched

Following the report, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut ordered an official inquiry into the incident. In an open letter sent by Hayut to Israel’s justice system Monday, the Chief Justice called the incident “difficult.”

Both Poznansky-Katz and Shacham-Shavit have been suspended indefinitely.

Erdan said that all previous rulings in Case 4000 need to be reviewed.

Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem, one of the justice system’s most vocal critics, told IDF Radio that the incident serves as proof that the legal system is “obsessively” pursuing criminal charges against Netanyahu, whose name has been tied to the widely encompassing corruption case.

“This is not a new problem and this will not end with this judge,” said Amsalem. “In the last two years, the police have been engaged in an obsessive, even sick chase after the prime minister in order to bring him down. And now look what is happening.”

A court on Monday released four of the seven suspects held in a high-profile corruption case involving Netanyahu’s confidants, after the judge-lawyer scandal was exposed.

The development leaves two Netanyahu aides — Nir Hefetz, the premier’s former media adviser, and Communications Ministry Director Shlomo Filber — and media tycoon Shaul Elovitch in jail.

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Last week police arrested Elovitch and the others over involvement in promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel’s Bezeq telecom company, of which Elovitch is a major shareholder.