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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/29/17

Israeli bloggers and the vengeful judges -- ongoing detention and chaos in the courtroom

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Joseph Zernik
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The bloggers have been in custody for 8 months, and will remain in custody for the duration of the trial, following Judge Abraham Heiman's unprecedented decision in a chaotic courtroom this week. Gag order was imposed on the entire hearing... The Public Defender's Office conduct in this case, as in a previous whistle-blower's case, appears deceitful. US DHS involvement is going to become a key issue in this case.

(Image by Joseph Zernik - created from photos, made public by the detainees themselves, and with their permission)   Details   DMCA

Tel-Aviv, October 28 -- in a chaotic court hearing on Thursday (October 26), Judge Abraham Heiman denied request by Defense Counsel for bloggers Lori Shem-Tov and Moti Leybel and their former attorney, Zvi Zer, to be released to house arrest. The three have been detained since late February, an unprecedented case in Israel. In the October 10 hearing, Defense Counsel cited a long list of murder and organized crime cases, where defendants had been released to house arrest during trial. Thursday's hearing marked ongoing vengeance of the Israeli judiciary against bloggers, who protested judicial corruption in the family courts. [i] Ongoing confinement of the Defendants in this case appears also aimed at undermining their ability to defend themselves, since their access to court records and evidence is severely restricted in jail, in blatant violation of the law.

Thursday's hearing was conducted in a tiny courtroom in the Tel-Aviv District Court, holding an audience of only a couple of dozens. Others, who showed up for the hearing, were left outside. The Defendants were brought into the courtroom amid yells by the public, "we love you", "be strong". Judge Heiman entered the courtroom visibly upset, slamming the door behind him, then leaving, once it turned out that Shem-Tov's Counsel Yehonatan Rabinovich had not made it to the court hearing. Counsel for the other two Defendants proceeded to try to convince Shem-Tov, in blatant violation of due process, to forgo her right to have her counsel present.

Next, yells, "Russia", from the audience were made to the judge, who got more upset and ordered some people out and entered a note to that effect into the protocol [minutes].

The court transcriptionist, dressed in extremely casual manner and visibly clueless about his job, raised d concerns regarding the validity of the entire hearing as a lawful court hearing. Conduct of simulated court hearings is a common phenomenon in the Israeli courts today" [ii]

Judge Heiman opened the hearing by reading a decision, rendering the entire court hearing under gag order. It remains unclear: Did he intend that the fact that the bloggers remain in custody since late February and into the foreseeable fuuere remain a state secret?

Next, Heiman started reading his decision. Trying to reason the dangers involved in releasing the Defendants to house arrest, he quoted an offensive blog post, allegedly attributed to the Defendants, where Israeli media were described, submitting to intense anal intercourse with corrupt judges. Such quote made obvious, what had been clear all along. The defamatory posts, pertaining to judicial corruption, were held by the judiciary a clear and present danger, and the judges were going to retaliate accordingly. In response to reading the blog post, a person in the audience yelled at the judge, "you are clownish", and a number of people left the courtroom in protest.

Following the hearing, some of the Defendants' supporters staged a spontaneous protest outside the courthouse, some dressed in concentration camp outfits...

As expected, none of the matter was reported by Israeli media.

In the October 10 hearing, the Prosecution staunchly opposed release of the Defendants to house arrest. The prosecution argued at length - about 1.5 hours. Among the arguments: "negative feelings toward the authorities", " they are active in the social sphere, and influence others", "they have followers, who show up for court hearings, and believe that the Defendants are innocent, and that their long detention is abusive". The Prosecution also repeatedly referred to the Defendants' lawful public space, street protests against judicial corruption as some kind of serious crime, and repeatedly stressed the danger posed by the Internet...

In an October 09 visit with Shem-Tov in jail, she again complained that she had been denied access to any records of the evidence against her, as well any access to court records in her own court file.

During the September 10 hearing, Shem-Tov's Public Defender, Rabinovich, stated that his efforts to deliver to Shem-Tov court records and investigation materials had been continuously scuttled by the Israel Prison Service in blatant violation of the law. He further stated that he despaired of such attempts, and that the Public Defender's Office had appointed Attorney Roy Lavi to handle the issue of Defendant Shem-Tov's access to records.

In contrast, during an October 09 visit to Shem-Tov in jail, she stated that Attorney Lavi had resigned, due to "conflicts of interest", and would not handle the matter.

Outside the October 10 court hearing, Counsel Rabinovich contradicted Shem-Tov's claims and also contradicted his own previous statements on the record. Rabinovich newer version was that the real problem was that the Public Defender's office had failed to issue an appointment for Attorney Roy Lavi in this case.

Conditions, where the Defendant is denied access to evidence and the Public Defender's office engages in deceitful conduct are remarkably similar to conduct that was previously observed in the criminal prosecution of Tax Authority Rafi Rotem. [iii]

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Dr Zernik's core research pertains to e-government and its significance for Human Rights and Civil Society.

His work won appreciation in Israel and abroad: * Prof Uzzi Ornan - "All power to you! I hope that you see your tremendous efforts (more...)
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