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Trial of Israeli bloggers to be held behind Closed Doors

Marianne Azizi photo
Marianne AziziTel Aviv
Trial of Israeli bloggers to be held behind Closed Doors
With the biggest cyber crime trial starting next month, Judge Beni Sagi orders closed doors. 300 witnesses of Judges and Social Workers will be spared public scrutiny

If any Supreme Court Judge in Israel was asked about the Israeli Judiciary, they may probably say it is a wonderful system, with few flaws; a beacon of pride which is admired worldwide.

But in truth, are the Israeli courts something to be proud of? On August 21st 2017, Judge Beni Sagi (pictured) signed just another routine closed door order decreeing the trial of 3 bloggers who are indicted for insulting judges, social workers and prosecutors will be kept from the public eye.

It is ironic that a criminal trial of those who dare criticise the judiciary of Israel will not be open for the public to watch and learn from.  One would expect that if the judges feel they were wrongfully insulted, they will set an example and step into the court room just like any other citizen, to testify in a similar way.  It is expected that anyone coming to court should be equal and not have special priveleges.

There is a deeply flawed logic in ordering a closed trial.  The 300 witnesses, made up of public officials will testify regarding public blogs which were deemed to be so insulting that at least 30 people were arrested in a swoop on activists and Facebook users in February 2017.  Six people were held in detention, finally reduced to just three, who were indicted in April.  The protection the public officials are afforded not to be criticised will continue for the 5 month trial.

It has been said in evidence during the investigations that Attorney Barak Lazer, head of the Court Management System, leaked scandalous information to a blogger, and many of her blogs reached mainstream TV and newspapers.  He was also detained, but allowed to be released on house arrest, and in May returned to his position.  Those who exposed the corruption have not been able to get house arrest or bail, a decision which is completely illegal according to Israeli Law.

But Israel is the land where hypocrisy in the courts has been mastered to an art form.  The law itself says one thing, but in practice, in court, a judge has the freedom to say the law means something completely different.

This is why closed doors and gag orders have become so prevalent in Israel.  The dirty laundry is always washed in secret.  Citizens of Israel who write critically of the judges and it's prosecution generally do so in anonymous blogs to expose the corruption and scandals.  The response of those who blogged publicly is to lock up activists in illegal detention pending trial for over 6 months without evidence, and then try them behind closed doors.

Judge Beni Sagi has failed to uphold the doctrines stated of the people's right to know, or that the best cure for corruption is letting the rays of sunshine in, but what Judge Sagi does understand is that it simply doesn't work this way in Israel.

The pre-trial hearings have been farcical.  One moment the hearing is open doors, and then in a flash, the arresting Judge Haiman has thrown all the friends and family out, with no reason.  There have been days when such a protest was made, that he let them all back in again.  On another occasion Judge Haiman made an arbitrary decision that only ONE parent of the bloggers would be allowed in his courtroom, leaving the spouse outside in trauma. 

Evidence is still been added by the prosecution, months after the indictment, leaving defense lawyers with only days to read and prepare for trial.  Some evidence has requests for gag orders, some doesn't.  All these actions are illegal, and every Supreme Court appeal has resulted in ongoing detention, despite the Judges being aware of this. 

The secret file method is used regularly.  Each blogger may have up to 12 secret files, which they nor their lawyers are allowed to access.  These are used by the prosecution and shown to the judge.  No one can know what is in their 'secret file', but all Israelis know they have one, usually started at their entry point to the army.

The crimes exposed of corruption in the Judiciary will remain secret, the writers of the crimes will be held in prison indefinitely, and now the whole trial, at the taxpayers expense, and regarded as one of the biggest in Israel, will be held in secret.

The question remains - why don't the victims of insults stand up publicly to be counted and prove to the country that the bloggers were lying?  With a conviction rate in criminal courts of 99%, it is safe to say that exposing a crime in Israel is the crime itself. 

#Judge Beni Sagi, #Judge Abraham Haiman, #Cyber terrorism in Israel, #Corruption in Israel Judiciary, #Freedom of speech in Israel, #Bloggers trial in Israel, #Lory Shem Tov, #Moti Leybel, #Zvi Zer