Israel’s Supreme Court Head Names Judges for Holyland Appeal

The panel, headed by Justice Salim Joubran, will include Justices Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman and Isaac Amit.

Tomer Appelbaum

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis announced Thursday the composition of the panel of five justices who will be hearing the appeal in the Holyland case.

The panel, headed by Justice Salim Joubran, will also include Justices Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman and Isaac Amit.

Joubran, Hendel, Danziger and Vogelman are also on the panel hearing the state’s appeal in the acquittal of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption and fraud charges in the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases. Recently, these judges acceded to the prosecution’s request to be allowed to present new evidence, and they sent the case back to the Jerusalem District Court.

Even though in its earlier stages the Holyland case was tried by a single judge, David Rozen, Grunis appointed five judges to hear the appeal rather than three.

This may be related to the importance of the case and the identity of the accused, who include a former prime minister. Also, the verdict raised some legal issues since it relied on circumstantial evidence and on a state’s witness who died before being cross-examined.

Grunis will not be part of the panel since he is expected to retire next January. Justice Miriam Naor, who is expected to replace Grunis as president of the court, has recused herself from cases involving Olmert. Joubran is the most senior of the five justices and will therefore preside over the panel. Jurists say the judges on the panel tend to favor defendants.

However, the composition is not favorable for Olmert, since four of the five judges in the Holyland case heard the recordings provided by his assistant Shula Zaken, which apparently incriminated him for obstructing justice. In his decision to return the Talansky case to the district court, Grunis wrote that “in reaching a decision regarding collection of additional evidence, suffice it to say that the dialogue heard in the recordings justifies gathering more evidence, as requested by the state. This also applies to diaries that were not presented to the court, since Zaken did not take the witness stand.”

Grunis added that the nature of the material is germane to the state’s appeal and should be presented to the court before it reaches a verdict.