A MAGISTRATES Court judge, a judge’s wife and the head of the Israel Bar Association were arrested as Israeli police probed a suspected scandal of judges being appointed in exchange for sexual favours.
The allegations which have rocked the country involve suspicious attempts to appoint two judges.
Bar association president Efi Naveh appeared in court on Wednesday, facing possible charges of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favours.
He denies any wrongdoing.
An unnamed female magistrates court judge who was arrested was released under home arrest. She denies giving anyone sexual favours in exchange for her cause being advanced on the Judicial Selection Committee.
The Israeli media has been agog with speculation in recent days over the scope of the affair.
There are allegations that the scandal may have reached all the way to the justice ministry and Supreme Court.
A sweeping gag order has prevented many details from emerging. But it is known that police raided the home of “a senior figure in Israel’s justice system” and also the offices of the bar association.
According to police, an arrested man is alleged to have acted to appoint a female judge to a magistrates court, as well as another judge.
A former president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, told Army Radio: “It seems that something very serious has happened here regarding the procedure of the appointment of judges to the courts.”
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has disqualified himself from dealing with the case because of his friendship with the main suspect.
Instead, State Attorney Shai Nitzan will oversee it along with his deputy.
Nitzan — whose approval is necessary to arrest an official such as the central suspect — is said to have personally authorised the arrests and questioning.
Some members of the Judicial Selection Committee will be required to testify in the affair, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court president Esther Hayut, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Shaked and Hayut said in a joint statement that they trust the police to get to the truth regarding the investigation and that they hope the probe will be completed speedily so as to remove any questions about the legal establishment beyond those few suspected.
Shaked has already been brought in for questioning in relation to the case, the Jerusalem Post said.
Hayut also sent a public letter to all the country’s judges, calling on them to “continue to believe in ourselves” and to continue to perform their duties honourably.
She added that the judicial branch has faced hard times in the past and that “this probe is definitely a low, but that the judiciary would brave the storm and continue to show that most judges serve honourably”.
Knesset Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich claimed that the Judicial Selection Committee “operated under terror and corruption”.
“The rotten environment and broken alliances that created it are the ground for the horrific affair being exposed today,” she said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld would only say that “offences of integrity” regarding attempts to appoint two judges are being looked into.
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