A labor court on Sunday ordered a freeze on its earlier ruling to allow a pediatrician convicted on child pornography charges to serve as medical supervisor of the Health Ministry’s student health services department in the Northern District, following an outcry.
The Nazareth Regional Labor Court last month ruled that Avraham Barkai, who was found guilty in 2011 of possession and distribution of some 190,000 pornographic videos and images of minors, could take up the post and visit schools as part of his job, but not treat children.
The decision to delay the implementation of the court order followed a request from the State Prosecutor’s Office, which plans to file an appeal against the ruling in the coming days, a legal official told The Times of Israel.
“If the execution of the verdict is not delayed and the respondent [Barkai] enters the position, irreversible damage is likely to be be caused,” the court wrote in its ruling Sunday, according to the Walla news site.
It also warned that its earlier ruling could cause “harm to the public’s trust” in the Civil Service Commission, which opposed Barkai’s appointment.
Barkai now has two weeks to respond to the latest ruling.
The court’s decision last month to okay Barkai’s appointment sparked widespread uproar among rights groups and Education Minister Rafi Peretz declared he would not allow Barkai to enter a single school.
Barkai was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being convicted of being part of an international child pornography distribution ring, but the punishment was reduced on appeal to six months of community service, a nine-month suspended sentence and a NIS 20,000 ($5,690) fine.
For over a year up to his conviction, but after he had already been charged, Barkai continued to practice at a Haifa clinic of the Meuhedet HMO after a Health Ministry disciplinary committee ruled that he could continue to see children as long as a parent or nurse was in the room.
The disciplinary committee went on to rule that despite the charges, Barkai did not pose a danger to children as he had not been accused of physical acts against minors. As a result, it ruled that the pediatrician’s license should only be stripped for two years, and by July 2013 Barkai got his license back.
Since then, Barkai sought unsuccessfully to apply to various posts, but in late 2018 a medical board voted unanimously to award him a position as medical supervisor at the Health Ministry’s student health services department in the northern district.
The Civil Service Commission subsequently interfered and blocked the appointment, which was appealed by Barkai and overturned by the Nazareth labor court last month.