Supreme Court head announces collusion inquiry following judge texting scandal
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Supreme Court head announces collusion inquiry following judge texting scandal

Three-person committee will investigate relationship between judges and law enforcement officials after 'a series of personal and systemic failures' revealed

Supreme Court president Esther Hayut at a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Supreme Court president Esther Hayut at a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

The president of the Supreme Court announced Sunday an official inquiry into the relationship between judges and law enforcement officials, in the wake of revelations that a judge presiding over remand extensions in the Bezeq corruption probe appeared to have colluded with a state prosecutor.

The panel will be headed by Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron, who will be joined by Beersheba District Court Judge Revital Yaffe Katz, and Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Judge Einat Ron.

In announcing the committee of inquiry, Hayut said that a preliminary investigation had revealed, “a series of personal and systemic failures.”

Last week, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked initiated disciplinary action against Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz, who appeared to coordinate remand rulings for the suspects implicated in a corruption case involving Israeli telecom giant Bezeq.

Judge Eliezer Rivlin, the ombudsman handling complaints against judges, ruled there would be no criminal proceedings against Poznansky-Katz, but recommended that she face a disciplinary hearing over the “highly inappropriate” exchange.

Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz (L) and the Israel Securities Authority’s legal adviser, Eran Shacham-Shavit (R)

He found that the relationship between the two continued for several months and soon turned into an inappropriate dialog. “During the months of June, July, December 2017, January and February 2018, Shaham-Shavit addressed the judge directly several times regarding the cases he was dealing with,” Rivlin wrote.

Obtained by Channel 10 last week, the text messages between Poznansky-Katz and Israel Securities Authority attorney Eran Shacham-Shavit sparked accusations that state officials were obstructing justice, and the suspects would not receive a fair trial.

In the exchange, Shacham-Shavit told Poznansky-Katz that the Securities Authority intended to ask that some of the suspects in the probe be released and holding be remanded further.

“Try and act surprised,” he wrote.

“I’m practicing my surprised face,” she responded before apparently agreeing to the request.

A full transcript of the messages released several days later, however, appeared to be less damning than initially reported — when only a snippet was available — showing that Poznansky-Katz and Shacham-Shavit were mainly discussing case logistics.

The Bezeq corruption investigation, dubbed Case 4000, involves suspicions that Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant fawning coverage to the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in exchange for the prime minister, who was also communications minister at the time, advancing regulations benefiting him.

On Friday, the prime minister and his wife, Sara, were questioned for the first time in the case. After the five-hour interrogation, investigation officials reportedly said that Netanyahu will be hard-pressed to explain away the “concrete” suspicions and “solid” evidence against him.

Police believe the evidence they have, including testimonies, physical evidence, and audio recordings, directly ties the Netanyahus to the alleged quid pro quo scheme, according to Hadashot news.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in these cases.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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