Barak Lezer - Counsel for Israel Court Administration leaks confidential scoops on corruption in Judiciary
A major crackdown against Israeli human rights activists and alternative news channels began on February 27th 2017, with an arrest of 12 activists resulting in a 40 day solitary detention for 3 of them, one being the notorious blogger - Lory Shem Tov. After 40 days of investigation, the three detainees were charged on 91 counts including naming and shaming of judges, public officials and publishing confidential protocols from closed door court cases.
The ongoing investigations resulted in a surprising twist.
It appears that many of the most scandalous news reports Shem Tov was publishing supported by confidential court records; transcripts, judgments, criminal sentencing and even juvenile and family court records from closed doors, were actually leaked to her by the officer in charge of the Israel Administration of the Courts - Attorney Barak Lazer
The investigators at the Tel Aviv Cyber Police Department were shocked when the source of many of the most sensational scoops were traced back to intentional leaks from the Israel Administration of the Courts - a department of the Ministry of Justice itself.
The investigators struggled to find the motivation for the leaks. Attorney Barak Lazer was arrested and investigated for these leaks.
He said he was being extorted by Shem Tov, as he claimed she threatened to expose him as a victim of discrimination against men, which is prevalent in the Israeli Family Courts. It appears the court put an unimaginable sum of child support against him; his former wife putting a garnishment on his salary at the Court Administration. This is not uncommon for any divorced man, though there may be more to his story which is not revealed.
This version that Lazer was being extorted does not fully clarify why, for 3 years, he supplied some of the most well kept secrets of trials behind closed doors in Israel and scandals which were placed under gag orders.
Conversely, Shem Tov claimed that Lazer enlisted her to fight back at some feminist lawyers, headed by Attorney Roni Aloni Sadovnik, who, it seems, regularly and systematically attacked judges and orchestrated shaming campaigns against judges who "are not sensitive to the needs of women complaining about rape and violence"
Whoever is right or wrong in these mutual accusations, the leaks were some of the most scandalous cases in Israel, and lend themselves to examination. The cases, selected for leaks were scoops known by Attorney Lazer. He allegedly made his own decision as to which secrets to leak. The stories leaked did reach the mainstream news and became headlines - accessed from the now deleted blogs.
Many cases leaked were indeed connected to Attorney Roni Aloni Sadovnik,
a criminal lawyer who is regarded as an avid supporter of women's rights. When judges made decisions which were not in favour of women, Ms. Sadovnik organised public campaigns, and was known to have sued the Administration of the Courts for ''negligent training of judges to the sensitivities of women". It is reported she even hired a PR company to smear the reputation of a judge who ruled against her in an infamous case.
Here are some examples of the scandals which were leaked.
Judge Dalia Ganot ruled that four women, members of the Cult of Philosophy, had made false claims of rape and were ordered to pay 1.4 million shekels in compensation - a fortune never heard of before in a country where women enjoy immunity for false allegations. Ms. Sadovnik was the lawyer defending the women who had made those false claims.
Also leaked was the case of another false rape claimant - the woman who filed charges against the reporter Yoav Even of Israel Channel 2. This false claim drove him to an intention to end his life should he be convicted. He was proven innocent, and published a free internet book named 'His side' on his traumatic experience.
Also the women who filed false claims against Minister Silvan Shalom. (His case was subsequently dropped after his resignation). Another major leak was the confidential records of the claimant against the Mayor of the City of Or Yehuda, and the records of a Jerusalem Rabbi whose wife claimed he had raped her 20,000 times.
In February 2016, a year earlier than the current scandals; an arrest was made of an unnamed court administration member published in YNet news - This is the English translation:
Suspicion: An employee of the Courts Administration leaked information about the file of the mayor of Ashkelon
Published: 09.02.16, 22:30
The police investigated a court employee on suspicion that he had transferred to an unauthorized party information relating to a covert investigation before the investigation became apparent. This was the file of Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni, who was suspected of rape and bribery and fraud.
A court worker was released to house arrest for five days and was removed from his office for 15 days.
Whether Barak Lazer was extorted to release information, or whether he chose to use Shem Tov as his own PR organisation remains to be uncovered. One thing is certain - he retained his position after leaking some of the most scandalous confidential information to her, selected by his own choices.
The stories published highlighted either corrupted judges, or others who were being named and shamed by making what appears to be anti-feminist judgments.
Sadovnik herself leaked confidential closed door documents related to the rape of a minor; she leaked to the press information which supported her smear campaign against 3 judges in the District Court of Jerusalem - Moshe Drori, Zvi Segal and Yoram Noaam. She was subsequently sued by the Ethics Committee in the Israel Bar Association, the outcome is still awaited. The headlines were:
"Attorney Roni Aloni-Sedovnik has been charged with plotting the composition of the judges Zvi Segal, Moshe Drori and Yoram Noam, and has published secret information from a closed-door procedure. Who represents the complainant in the affair, in which a false claim was made against the judges of the Jerusalem District Court which allegedly forced the complainant to demonstrate in the courtroom how she was raped.
She is not in prison for leaking confidential information of a minor. The newspapers and journalists who published the illegal leaks are not in prison.
Clearly, the didfference is in the manner the blogs were written. Humour or satirical posts directed at judges, and demonstrations at the homes of public officials mean some of the detainees will be prosecuted for illegal crowding - possibly for several years.
The imact of the arrests was instant and dramatic. Social protest was silenced all at once. Many people in Israel are now afraid of saying even a wrong word on Facebook.
Other activists fighting against bank and tax fraud have also been rounded up, facing trials or imprisonmenet. Freedom of speech and protest against corruption are now a very dangerous thing to play with in the State of Israel.
One of the inevitabilities for all detainees across the country could be to face the Supreme Court Judge who in a recent trial of a whistleblower said 'the truth is not a defense'