Holyland trial to be conducted in front of just one judge
According to the indictment, land developers pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to senior officials to further development of the Holyland Park luxury housing development.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen is to be the sole judge in the Holyland corruption case, whose most prominent defendant is former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner announced the decision on Tuesday. The prosecution had asked for a panel of three judges.
A total of 16 people have been indicted in the case, including former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski Olmert's long-time former office manager, Shula Zaken, and officials from the Israel Lands Administration.
According to the indictment, between 1999 and 2008 the Holyland Development Company and associated land developers paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to senior officials in the Jerusalem municipality, members of its Planning and Building Committee and ILA officials in order to further development of the capital's Holyland Park luxury housing development.
Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem during some of the period covered in the charge sheet.
In light of the large number of defendants and the huge number of witnesses, the case is expected to drag on in the court for years. The prosecution alone is expected to call about 370 witnesses.
The state had claimed a three-judge panel was necessary because of the case's complexity and the potential for the verdict to have wide-ranging public and legal implications.
Rozen was born in 1950 and was appointed to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in 1994. He was promoted to the Tel Aviv District Court in 2004. In 2010 he took the Justice Ministry's tax and economic crimes division - the same unit that is responsible for the Holyland indictments - to task for shortcomings in its conduct.
In the 2010 case Rozen quashed a money laundering indictment against two heads of the Russian desk of a Bank Hapoalim branch on Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Street. Rozen ruled that the prosecution had wrongly withheld large amounts of investigative material from the defense.
In another case Rozen increased the sentence of a tax official who was convicted of taking bribes, saying a government agency like the Tax Authority, should "serve as a symbol and sanctuary of order and honesty" and that the sentence should serve as an deterrence.