Court Lifts Gag Order on Case Against Fugitive Former Judge Dan Cohen

Former CEO of Siemens Israel, Oren Ahronson, will turn state's evidence against former judge Dan Cohen, accused of accepting bribes at the time of his tenure on the board of the Israel Electric Corporation. Ahronson is alleged to have bribed Cohen.

This information was released following the lifting of a gag order by the Tel Aviv District Court. The state cited its concerns for Ahronson's privacy, requesting to maintain the gag order until after Cohen is extradited, but Judge Khaled Kabub said he could not ignore the public's right to know in this "extremely unusual case."

Cohen was arrested in Lima, Peru, after Israel requested to extradite him for trial on charges of accepting bribery, breach of trust, obstructing justice and other offenses. According to the indictment - which was served in January but only released to the press following his arrest - Cohen pocketed approximately $2.8 million and over 1 million Euros for applying pressure which benefited both the German conglomerate Siemens and the Israeli company Rogosin Industries. Cohen is also accused of obstructing justice by escaping to Peru and refusing to return for questioning.

Cohen is accused of accepting a bribe from Siemens in 2001, in exchange for influencing the board of directors at the IEC to award Siemens a tender for three gas turbines. The purchase cost 320 million euros, and according to the indictment, Ahronson rewarded Cohen with over 1 million euros. Ahronson turned state's witness before the indictment was served, and is expected to testify against Cohen if he is extradited.

Judge Kabub explained his decision to lift the gag order on Ahronson's expected testimony by saying "The state realizes that once Cohen is extradited to Israel, the spotlights will be inevitably be trained on Mr. Ahronson because of his role in the trial. I therefore have difficulty seeing a significant difference between protecting the witness's privacy today and protecting it after Cohen's extradition."

Kabub also wrote that "As regretful as the fact that this case causes some embarrassment to the witness himself and to Israeli and international companies may be, this is not sufficient to justify overruling such an important value as the public's right to know."