The Supreme Court yesterday joined the list of courts that have freed suspects due to the prosecutors' strike: Justice Asher Grunis ruled that a man charged with smuggling 12 kilograms of opium into Israel should be moved from jail to house arrest.
The man had been indicted in the Petah Tikva District Court in March and remanded into custody until the end of his trial. But the trial never began because of a dispute between prosecutors and defense attorneys over how much opium would be provided to the defense for lab tests.
Due to the delay, the suspect has now been in jail for nine months, and by law, he cannot be held for longer without the Supreme Court's permission.
"The state prosecutors are on strike these days," Grunis wrote. "As such, no prosecutor has been present at proceedings in the district court. It appears that even after the strike ends, and even assuming the material is handed over for testing promptly, quite some time will pass before the court starts hearing the evidence in the case."
Thus even if he extended the remand for another 90 days, the justice wrote, "it is doubtful whether the trial would be completed during that time, since the prosecutors' strike is still ongoing."
He therefore decided to transfer the suspect to house arrest under the close supervision of a relative.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently assigned Eyal Gabai, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, the task of bridging the differences between the striking attorneys and the Finance Ministry. Gabai met yesterday with the prosecutors' representatives, headed by Boaz Goldberg, and also met separately with treasury representatives. He is expected to be in a position to propose a resolution to the crisis in another few days.
But Northern District Prosecutor Silvia Freiman warned that meanwhile, the effects of the drawn-out strike, which began over a month ago, continue to escalate.
"This strike should have ended a long time ago, and perhaps should not even have started," she said. "We are trying to contain the damage, but the damage is great, and it will be felt the day after the strike ends. Hundreds of trials have been postponed, and the delay is causing miscarriages of justice"
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