Monday, July 12, 2004

Case of Igor Antapika

Case of Igor Antapika
AKA: the Street Stair Rapist
Haifa, Israel
Soviet Union

The Haifa District Court sentenced Igor Antapika, known as "the stairwell rapist," to 31 years in prison. The 25-year-old serial rapist who had terrorized Haifa women in 2004 was convicted on eight of nine counts. He earned his nickname after assaulting his victims in dark stairwells in the city's Hadar and Carmel neighborhoods.


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Table of Contents:

  1. Teen raped in what may be Haifa serial rapist's third assault  (07/12/2004)
  2. Police believe serial rapist is at large in the Haifa area  (07/13/2004)
  3. Police publish sketch of Haifa rapist (07/13/2004)
  4. Police release updated Identikit of Haifa serial rapist (07/18/2004)
  5. Police: Haifa 'stairwell rapist' arrested (07/22/2004)
  6. Haifa's "street stairs rapist" nabbed (07/22/2004)
  7. 'Stair rapist´ caught (07/22/2004)
  8. Haifa District Court indicts alleged 'stairwell rapist'  (08/05/2004)

  1. `Stairwell rapist' jailed for 31 years  (06/28/2005)
  2. No more Mr. Nice Guy? (07/21/2005)

Teen raped in what may be Haifa serial rapist's third assault
By David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent
Haaretz - Mon., July 12, 2004 Tamuz 23, 5764

A 17-year-old resident of Haifa's Carmel neighborhood was raped early Monday morning on Wedgewood Street by a man who assaulted her and dragged her into a yard, the northern coastal city's third rape case in as many weeks.

Haifa Police Commander Nir Mareash said that police suspect a serial rapist is operating in the area, noting that details from Monday's assault match those in the prior two cases. Laboratory test results from the first two cases indicate the same man was responsible for both assaults.

Monday's victim was taken for medical examinations at Haifa's Bnei Zion Medical Center.

On June 19, a 19-year-old woman was assaulted in the Hadar neighborhood in the early morning after the rapist dragged her into a stairwell between two streets. On June 26, a 39-year-old resident of Haifa's Neve Sha'anan neighrborhood was dragged into a yard and raped after leaving her house in the pre-morning hours.

Police say the rapist threatened his victims with serious harm and that his accent indicates that he comes from the former Soviet Union.

Mareash requested the Haifa public to be alert and recommended that women exercise caution when walking during the early morning hours.

Haifa Police have set up a special investigation team for this case.

Police believe serial rapist is at large in the Haifa area
By David Ratner
Haaretz - July 13, 2004 Tamuz 24, 5764

A 17-year-old girl was raped in the early hours of yesterday morning on Wedgewood Street in Haifa's Merkaz Hacarmel neighborhood by a man who assaulted her and dragged her into a yard. Police believe a serial rapist is operating in the northern coastal city; yesterday's incident was Haifa's third rape case in as many weeks.

The Haifa Police has set up a special investigation team to handle the case.

On June 19, a 19-year-old woman was assaulted in the city's Hadar neighborhood in an early-morning attack; the victim was dragged into a stairwell between two streets and raped. A week later, on June 26, a 39-year-old woman was assaulted and raped in Haifa's Neve Sha'anan neighborhood.

Haifa Police Commander Nir Mareash said that certain elements of yesterday's assault matched those of the prior two cases, adding that laboratory test results from the first two cases indicated that the same man was responsible for both assaults.

Mareash asked the Haifa public to be alert and recommended that women exercise caution when walking alone during the early morning hours.

All three rape victims were attacked shortly after 3 A.M., while on their way home. However, while all three rapes took place around the same time of day and in similar locations (dark alleyways between neighborhoods), the incidents occured in neighborhoods far from one another.

Police say the rapist threatened his victims with serious harm and that his accent indicates that he comes from the former Soviet Union. A partial identikit compiled by the police has yet to be released for publication.

The victim of yesterday's attack was taken for medical examinations and treatment at the center for victims of sexual assault at Haifa's Bnei Zion Medical Center and subsequently discharged.

Three complaints

Also yesterday, the Zevulun Police in the Krayot suburbs of Haifa received three complaints regarding incidents of sexual assault.

Zevulun Police Commander Roni Atiya said the first complaint came from a young woman who took her dog for an examination at a veterinary clinic in the Krayot. On entering the clinic, the young woman reported, the vet locked the door, exposed himself and tried to sexually assault her. She managed to flee.

The vet was subsequently apprehended and placed under house arrest for five days.

Zevulun police also arrested two suspected rapists yesterday, following a complaint filed by a 50-year-old woman from the Krayot. The woman told police she was hitchhiking toward Kiryat Ata when she was picked up by a disabled man who offered her a drink. She told police that immediately after drinking the beverage, she felt strange, adding that the next thing she remembered was finding herself naked on the backseat of the car.

The victim reported that the driver then stopped to pick up a friend and that she was made to travel with them for a few hours, stopping at various locations. When she was dropped at home, her daughter noted the license plate number of the car and the two men were arrested.

One of the suspects had an outstanding warrant for his arrest and was remanded in custody; the second suspect was placed under house arrest. The woman was sent for a medical examination.

The third complaint concerned a father's alleged sexual abuse of his daughter. Police have arrested a 45-year-old Krayot resident suspected of indecently assaulting his 13-year-old daughter while she was on holiday at home from boarding school. The complaint was filed with the police by the welfare authorities.

The father denies the allegations against him; he was remanded in custody for four days.

The rape incidents in Haifa

Police publish sketch of Haifa rapist
By David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent
Haaretz - July 13, 2004

The man is believed to have raped a 17-year-old girl in the early hours of Monday morning on Wedgewood Street in Haifa's Merkaz Hacarmel neighborhood. The man who assaulted her and dragged her into a yard. The incident was Haifa's third rape case in as many weeks.

The Haifa Police has set up a special investigation team to handle the case.

On June 19, a 19-year-old woman was assaulted in the city's Hadar neighborhood in an early-morning attack; the victim was dragged into a stairwell between two streets and raped. A week later, on June 26, a 39-year-old woman was assaulted and raped in Haifa's Neve Sha'anan neighborhood.

Laboratory tests revealed that the same man was responsible for the first two attacks.

4 Bat Yam men suspected of drugging, raping and extorting 16-year-old girl

Police arrested four Bat Yam residents on Monday, on suspicion they drugged, raped and extorted a 16-year-old girl. According to police, the four threatened to distributed footage of the rape if the girl did not pay them a sum of NIS 800.

The girl lodged a complaint with Tel Aviv police on Saturday. She said she met two of the suspects in the beginning of June in Bat Yam and that after complaining of pain, they offered her an analgesic. The girl claims the pill they gave her was actually an hallucinogenic. She told police she hallucinated for several hours, during which she was raped by the two suspects and two others that joined.

One of the suspects then told the girl he had a videocassette depicting the rape and that he'd sell it to her for NIS 800. Police accompanied the girl to a meeting point and arrested the suspect Monday. The three other suspects were subsequently arrested Tuesday.

Police found no videocassette in their possession.

Police release updated Identikit of Haifa serial rapist
By David Ratner
Haaretz - Sun., July 18, 2004 Tamuz 29, 5764

News in Brief

Police yesterday released a new Identikit of the suspected rapist who has struck Haifa three times in the past month. Calls poured in last week in response to the first Identikit and police hope it will now be easier to identify the rapist. The suspect, in his early 20s, with short blond hair and a Russian accent, attacked three women - a 19-year-old in the Hadar neighborhood on June 19, a 39-year-old in the Neveh Shaanan neighborhood on June 26, and a 17-year-old in the Central Carmel last Sunday. All were assaulted toward morning, while walking near stairwells between streets, leading police to dub the suspect "the stairwell rapist."

Police: Haifa 'stairwell rapist' arrested
By David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Thu., July 22, 2004 Av 4, 5764

Police on Thursday said they have arrested "the stairwell rapist," a Haifa man suspected of raping three women in the last two months. They say had DNA testing been speedier, he would have been caught after the first attack.

The suspect, Igor Antapika ,a 24-year-old immigrant from the former Soviet Union, was arrested Wednesday night, but police did not release the information for publication until Thursday morning.

The suspect is accused of attacking a 19-year-old woman in Haifa's Hadar neighborhood on June 19, a 39-year-old in the northern city's Neveh Sha'anan neighborhood on June 26, and a 17-year-old in Carmel Center on July 11.

All were assaulted toward morning, while walking near stairwells between streets, leading police to dub the suspect "the stairwell rapist."

Calls poured in to the police in the last two weeks in response to a sketch police released publicly to help identify the rapist. Last week, police called on Haifa women to be aware of their surroundings and avoid walking alone at night.

The suspect, who lives in Haifa's Hadar neighborhood with his parents, has served a year and a half in jail for robbing a woman, Israel Radio reported.

Police are due to ask the court Thursday to extend his remand.

Database could have saved two victims Haifa police chief Nir Mariash held a press conference Thursday morning to recount the events leading up to the arrest.

He said police immediately grew suspicious when they heard the similarities between the two first rape cases, and began an investigating the possibility that there was a serial rapist in Haifa. The third rape victim provided police with a fairly accurate sketch of the suspect, which was released this week.

Meanwhile, DNA tests conducted on the victims confirmed that one man had attacked all three, but police DNA databases were limited, so they could not could not compare the information to former sex offenders and find a match.

After the third woman was raped, a team was of detectives was formed who used the information from the sketch and DNA data along with information on previous sex offenders and criminals in the area. A police psychologist defined the rapist's actions as highly violent.

Following the publication of the sketch, police received dozens of reports on the rapist from various organizations and persons. Mariash said reports were coming in from all over the country, even the Russian Embassy called to say they had spotted the suspect at an Israeli branch of the Russian Orthodox church. The data was compared by a computer system, leading investigators to Antapika.

Shortly after Antapika immigrated to Israel, he was sent to jail for one count of assault and another of robbery in Haifa, and was released in December 2003.

Antapika was summoned for questioning on July 14 along with 25 other suspects. Samples of his saliva were taken for evidence and one week later, the laboratory announced that his DNA matched the samples found at the scene of the crime, Antapika was immediately arrested and during questioning admitted he had raped the three women.

A investigations officer at Haifa police, Benny Avliyah, said if the police had a computerized database of sex offenders, they would not have had to wait a week for the results, and could have caught the suspect after the first victim had filed her complaint.

Police are also investigating cases of sexual harassment which didn't end in rape, following a pattern of women who were attacked alone in stairwells. Police think Antapika may be behind these cases, as well as four cases of assault. They also thanked the press for its contribution in revealing the sketch, and said the reports were a great help in catching the witness.

Police arrest suspect in Tel Aviv rape A 24-year-old resident of Kiryat Ono, near Haifa, was arrested on Thursday for the alleged rape of a 29-year-old woman from Tel Aviv.

The woman was walking to her home in Malchat Street at 1 A.M., when an unknown man attacked her and dragged her into the backyard of a building, where he raped her. The woman struggled, and the man quickly fled the scene.

The woman filed a complaint, and police were able to use her description of the rapist to track down a suspect nearby. They will try to determine whether the man was involved in the incident, and have said they may request an extension of his remand Thursday morning.

Police received a similar report a week and a half ago, when a young woman described a rape under similar circumstances in Tel Aviv. The woman was walking home late at night on Ibn Gvirol Street, when a man attacked her, beat her and raped her behind a building, then escaped.

Police will continue to investigate both cases to determine whether there could be a connection between them.


Haifa's "street stairs rapist" nabbedBy Eyal Tal and NRG Maariv
Maariv International - July 22, 2004

Police arrest 24-year-old Igor Antipka, released from prison 6 months ago, who admits to 3 instances of overnight rapes on stairs separating Haifa streets.

The Haifa serial rapist, known as the "street stairs rapist", is off the streets, police announced on Thursday after 24-year-old Igor Antipka was detained and later confessed to the crimes.

Haifa Police Commander Nir Mariash told NRG Maariv that the suspect, a Haifa resident who immigrated to Israel from the CIS two years ago, has spent most of that time behind bars. Last December, he was released after serving 18 months of a sentence imposed on him for robbing a woman.

Police estimate that the suspect began attacking women shortly after his release, and they have tied him with three instances of rape. "After checking, we found out that the suspect is responsible for previous sexual assaults as well", Mariash added.

All of the attacks have occurred on a late hour on stairs that connect Haifa streets. His victims were women who were on their way home alone. In addition, the time of the assault in each case was about 3:30 a.m.

The first rape attributed to the suspect occurred one month ago. A 19-year-old woman, returning home from an evening's entertainment with friends, descended the stairs of her Hadar neighborhood apartment building at about 4 a.m. Halfway down, the suspect assaulted her, throwing her to the ground and saying "Shut your mouth". He then raped her and fled. The victim managed to call the police, who arrived at the scene and arrested a suspect a short distance away who, they later discovered, had no connection with the crime.

The rapist acted again a week later, in Haifa's Neve Sha'anan neighborhood. A 39-year-old woman returned home after being out for the weekend. At about 3:30 a.m., as she was descending a stairwell, the rapist assaulted and raped her in the same way.

At that point, Haifa police connected the events and realized that a serial rapist was loose on its streets. A special investigatory team was set up headed by Chief Superintendent Benny Abaliya. Female undercover police officers were dispatched to walk the stairs where the two incidents had occurred.

Police vehicles – visible and hidden – cruised the streets for protection. After a period of quiet, the rapist surprised the police by striking again, this time choosing the Carmel neighborhood, thought to be a higher-class area. Once again, and in the same manner (though not on the stairwell), the suspect assaulted and raped a 17-year-old woman at 3:30 a.m.


'Stair rapist´ caught
JTA Breaking News - Thu., July 22, 2004

Israeli police captured a serial rapist who had terrorized Haifa. The 24-year-old man in custody confessed to three attacks in the port city over the past month and DNA tests confirmed his culpability, police said Thursday. Known as the "stair rapist" for his modus operandi -- pouncing on women as they climbed the terraced walkways that run up the Haifa hillsides -- the suspect was arrested on Wednesday night. Police said he had previously been convicted of assault and was wanted in connection with other sex crimes.


Haifa District Court indicts alleged 'stairwell rapist'
By David Ratner and Itim
Thu., August 05, 2004 Av 18, 5764

The Haifa District Court on Thursday remanded in custody a man dubbed the "stairwell rapist" for two weeks to undergo psychological evaluation. The man was indicted for three charges of rape and six counts of sexual assault.

Igor Antipaka, 24, an immigrant from the former soviet union who lives in Haifa, admitted to all of the offenses and has reenacted them for the police.

Antipaka is accused of attacking a 19-year-old woman in Haifa's Hadar  neighborhood on June 19, a 39-year-old in the northern city's Neveh Sha'anan neighborhood on June 26, and a 17-year-old in the Carmel center on July 11.

All of the victims were walking on or dragged to stairwells as they walked home late at night, leading police to dub the suspect "the stairwell rapist."

According to the indictment, in one incident the suspect followed a woman while she went out to buy cigarettes, and then asked her for a cigarette. When the woman turned around to answer, he grabbed her by the hair and told her not to shout out. He then allegedly asked her for a kiss and violently threw her on the floor and threatened to kill her, while holding her by the throat.

According to the charge sheet, the suspect removed the woman's clothes and ordered her to perform a sexual act, during which he smoked a cigarette. The charges also allege that the man lit his cigarette lighter during this incident to better see what was happening.

In the final incident, in which he is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, he allegedly did not listen to the pleas of his victim, who told him that she was a 14-year-old virgin. He even allegedly asked her whether she was a prostitute.

In two other incidents, the suspect escaped after the women began shouting.

The suspect, who lives in the city's Hadar neighborhood with his parents, has served a year and a half in jail for robbing a woman.

Police released a sketch of Antipaka which helped lead to his arrest on June 22. Investigators also found that Antipaka's DNA matches that found at the crime scenes.

The suspect, who lives in the city's Hadar neighborhood with his parents, has served a year and a half in jail for robbing a woman.

Police released a sketch of Antipaka which helped lead to his arrest on June 22. Investigators also found that Antipaka's DNA matches that found at the crime scenes.

`Stairwell rapist' jailed for 31 years
By David Ratner
Haaretz - June 28, 2005

The Haifa District Court yesterday sentenced Igor Antapika, known as "the stairwell rapist," to 31 years in prison. The 25-year-old serial rapist who had terrorized Haifa women in 2004 was convicted Sunday on eight of nine counts. He earned his nickname after assaulting his victims in dark stairwells in the city's Hadar and Carmel neighborhoods.

Judges Micha Lindenstrauss, Ilan Shiff, and Shmuel Berliner sentenced Antapika to 30 years in prison for the rapes and assaults he commited in 2004, and also activated a one-year suspended sentence for a 2003 offense. He was also given a three-year suspended sentence.

Antapika's lawyer said that he would appeal both the conviction and the sentence to the Supreme Court.

The rapist was convicted of only eight charges because one of the original complainants, who now resides in Europe, did not come to Israeli to testify. Antapika was acquitted of that count later in the trial.

In handing down their sentence, the judges were unanimous in stating that the defendant deserved no mercy from the court since all of the complainants struck them as credible in describing the horrible trauma they had experienced, whereas the defendant had made a decidedly negative impression.

The judges added that Antapika had not expressed any remorse for his actions, which were shocking in their severity.

"The courts must help to eradicate the disease of sexual offenses through harsh punishment. The defendant deserves to receive a sentence that contains a strong deterrent factor," the judges said.

A relative of one of Antapika's victims said the family was greatly relieved by his sentence, which proved that justice was done and was pleased by the harsh sentence, which "can certainly deter potential sex offenders who will think twice before going out to carry out their misdeeds."

Antapika immigrated to Israel from Moldova in 2002 with his parents and brother. Moldovan authorities had opened an investigation against him for assaulting a woman and snatching her purse. In 2003, shortly after arriving in Israel, he was charged with aggravated assault in an attack on a woman with sexual overtones and was sentenced to just 18 months in jail, of which he served one year. He committed the sexual assaults and rapes while on prison furlough - he was given time off for good behavior.

No more Mr. Nice Guy?
By Shahar Ilan
Haaretz - July 21, 2005

If there is one thing that the new state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, doesn't like, it's criticism. It's true, as he says, that no one likes to be criticized. But it's doubtful that there is anyone else in Israel whose career is so identified with opposition to being critiqued. As chairman of the Israeli Association of Judges, Lindenstrauss, a former president of the Haifa District Court, led the battle waged by his colleagues against the feedback survey introduced by the Bar Association to rank the country's judges. He also led the judges' boycott of Bar Association events and was at the forefront of the judges' resistance to the imposition of sanctions against wayward judges.

In the past few weeks, ahead of his election as state comptroller and in the wake of his formal appointment, Lindenstrauss has come in for quite a bit of criticism. Such a reaction comes with the turf in any senior appointment, but Lindenstrauss sounds very disappointed that he has not been greeted as a savior and swaddled in media love. He is deeply hurt. After all, he is so charming and affable and tries so hard to please. Why are these feelings not reciprocated?

For example, he is annoyed at the fact that the media keeps rehashing the 1992 judgment in which he acquitted the defendants in the Kibbutz Shomrat gang-rape case. At the time, he endured public criticism, the State Prosecutor's Office appealed the acquittal of some of the defendants, and the Supreme Court overturned the judgment. It's not that he did not foresee the criticism. "On the eve of the judgment I went walking with my wife," Lindenstrauss recalls. "I told her, `Listen, we are now in for waves of unjustified criticism, which in time will pass - because I am acting as my conscience dictates - but I will withstand it.' The wave arrived. There were phone calls and threats." Yet the waves of criticism continue to batter him today, and that he finds very surprising.

"The public expected a conviction," he says. " But what is a judge to do when he hears witnesses and reaches the conclusion that there is doubt? I told myself that in all conscience I could not convict, because I had doubts. After so many cases in which I sat in judgment, thousands of cases, how did everything disappear and only one case remain?"

A list of cases

Without any connection to the Shomrat case, of course, Lindenstrauss recently published his third book on law, this one dealing with the issue of reasonable doubt. Without any connection to the Shomrat case, of course, the sentences handed down by Lindenstrauss in rape cases rose gradually from an average of about 10 years in prison during the first half of the 1990s, to a record high of 31 years - which a tribunal over which he presided handed down last month against Igor Antapika, the so-called "stairwell rapist." That was also his final judgment.

Lindenstrauss does not deny that he was attentive to public criticism on the punishment meted out in rape cases. "The court," he says, quoting Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, "does not sit on some Olympus in the hills of Jerusalem but acts amid the nation. There is no doubt that when the court metes out punishment, it must also see the public aspect. In other words, if there is a phenomenon that poses a danger to Israeli society, such as violent crimes, knifings or rape, and the public's attitude is that these crimes require deterrence, there is no doubt that the court weighs this consideration, too."

Lindenstrauss, who is 67, married, and the father of three daughters, was appointed a judge in Haifa Traffic Court in 1973, when he was 35. He then rose through the ranks until being appointed president of Haifa District Court in 1999. Asked which cases he would like to be remembered by, he replies, "I prepared a list for you." Then he corrects himself, "Well, not for you in particular, but when I came here I prepared a list. Take it, so you will have it in front of you.

"I was on the bench in the case of Gad Carmi, who in October 1999 murdered his 9-month-old daughter and tried to murder a boy in Kiryat Motzkin. I was on the bench in the trial of Yaakov Kantor, who electrocuted his wife and son. Do you remember that story? This guy went and electrocuted, killed, murdered his wife and son and then he commits suicide in jail. His name was Yaakov Kantor. I was on the bench in cases of people who committed murder against a homosexual background ... The case of the businessman Yigal Almagor in Haifa, who was murdered by a resident of Sakhnin. I was on the bench in the trial of the gynecologist who raped patients and later received 18 years in prison or something like that. Do you remember the murder involving the snake catcher? That was my case. I was the PJ [presiding judge]."

It is certainly a long list. "Do you know whose case I was on the bench for? Rafi Nahmani, who is now on trial for the murder of Judge Adi Azar. As part of a panel of judges, I sent him to life imprisonment for murdering a real estate agent in Haifa ... There was the case of Ganit Zimmerman, the student from Haifa who was murdered by an American student, Irvin Johnson - I don't know if you remember that story. You know, everything here tells me that the day will come when I will write something, a little book about these things ... The murder of the psychologist Eliezer Levy, again on a homosexual background; and one more, the murder of the engineer Yeshayahu Demner, also against a homosexual background, in Haifa; a murder involving desecration of family honor. Listen, take it, so you'll have it in front of you."

Asleep on the watch

It's not that Lindenstrauss doesn't have reason to feel he is under attack. The process of his election was accompanied by another wave of criticism. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel asked the High Court of Justice to instruct the Speaker of the Knesset to appoint a search committee to seek candidates for the post of state comptroller to succeed retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, whose term was over. Haaretz wrote in an editorial that it was worrisome that the politicians were in "across-the-board agreement" on the candidacy of Judge Lindenstrauss. (The state comptroller serves a seven-year term and is chosen by the Knesset in a secret vote.) Says a senior figure in the Bar Association, "He will be a parveh [bland] comptroller; he will not do anything that will upset people."

The struggle against Lindenstrauss was led by MK Michael Eitan (Likud), chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. "We fell asleep on the watch," he said, "and we deserve to be condemned for that." According to Eitan, "The resulting situation, in which there is only one candidate, creates the impression of a disreputable deal and an unworthy election process. However, what has been done is difficult to undo." By "falling asleep on the watch," Eitan was referring, among other points, to the fact that the final day for the submission of candidates to the post of state comptroller was also the final day of the Knesset's recess. The MKs apparently found it taxing to think about possible candidates and collect the necessary 10 signatures when the Knesset was not in session. "I didn't like the candidate," says a senior MK. "When we arrived for our first day of work in the Knesset [of the summer session] we discovered that the list was closed. I don't know whether it was done that way deliberately."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) notes that the timetable for choosing the state comptroller is set according to the date on which the outgoing comptroller concludes his term of office. "Poppycock," Rivlin says about the complaints. "No one put the MKs to sleep on their watch. There was no such aim. The candidacy of Lindenstrauss was well known and was reported in Haaretz."

Still, granting an extension for submitting the names of other candidates would undoubtedly have made possible a more democratic process. The timetable worked heavily in favor of Lindenstrauss, who was Rivlin's candidate. Now there is talk in the Knesset of choosing the state comptroller by means of a search committee - the same method that generated so much criticism recently in connection with the choice of the Knesset's legal adviser.

One person who definitely did not fall asleep on the watch was Lindenstrauss himself. As early as May 12, 2004, the Haifa weekly Kolbo informed its readers that Lindenstrauss was a candidate for state comptroller after Goldberg's retirement. Lindenstrauss, in contrast to other judges, who wait for positions to be offered to them, was a candidate in his own eyes.

As comptroller, what would you say about the complaints concerning the way the comptroller is chosen?

"That the whole thing was stupid. The subject of the appointment of a comptroller was known to everyone who took an interest one or two years in advance. It was not a secret. Whoever wanted to know, knew. The MKs were informed. If someone said he didn't know, he was blind. What, the MKs don't work during the recess? And how do you explain the fact that all the previous comptrollers were lone candidates and that until [now] no one opened his mouth? There was hypocrisy here."

He also asserts, "I would never have imagined asking to be an agreed candidate. That is invalid in a democracy. If you want a position, contest it, with total equality. People wanted to be special candidates." The word in the Knesset is that the potential candidates who made their agreement to serve as state comptroller conditional on their being an agreed candidate are three retired Supreme Court justices, Theodor Or, Dalia Dorner and Yaakov Turkel.

The height of the clash between MK Eitan and Judge Lindenstrauss occurred at the beginning of last month, in a committee hearing on a bill submitted by MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), which would permit cabinet ministers to appoint members of their party's central committee to "positions of personal trust." The legal adviser of the State Comptroller's Office, attorney Nurit Yisraeli, stated: "The position of the state comptroller is that this is inadmissible and that this bill is not good and not worthy." "Who?" Eitan asked. "Lindenstrauss, who appointed his daughter [court] registrar?"

Just as Lindenstrauss arrived for our interview with a list of trials in which he was involved, he also brought a photocopy of Yedioth Ahronoth's clarification of its story concerning his daughter, attorney Ilona Arieli-Lindenstrauss. The clarification cites a statement issued by the Courts Administration to the effect that Lindenstrauss' daughter was appointed registrar of Nazareth Magistrate's Court in a legal tender. She also undertook not to seek promotion to a judgeship as long as her father was working in the system - an unusual commitment.

"How does the chairman of the Justice Committee dare to utter such words in the Knesset? How does he dare raise an issue that was denied by the paper?" Lindenstrauss asks. "That is terrible self-righteousness."

My friends the politicians

It's doubtful that in recent years any judge has been more engaged in rubbing elbows with politicians and more hooked up with power centers than Lindenstrauss. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he grew up in such a political home. His father, who was a lawyer, headed the General Zionists party in Haifa in a period when the city was truly "red." Lindenstrauss recalls that the legendary mayor of Haifa, Abba Hushi, once scoffed at his father, "Here is the representative of the bourgeoisie."

The son's political involvement began ahead of the municipal elections in 1978, when he was still a Magistrate's Court judge. In an interview with Kolbo three years ago, he said, "Not long after the political turnabout of 1977" - when the Likud first came to power after 29 years of Labor rule - "I received an offer from the Labor Alignment in Haifa to run for mayor on their ticket. The interesting thing was that almost at the same time I received a similar offer from the Likud as well. To this day I don't have an explanation for the dual offer, but since my father ran three times unsuccessfully, I toyed with the idea of running once and succeeding. But I wanted to run on a nonpartisan ticket, and in that connection I met with Shimon Peres. He heard I was proposing to run together with the Likud, gave me a look, and said, `Give me a day or two to think about it.' He has apparently been thinking about it ever since." In other words, back in 1978, at least, Lindenstrauss wanted to be an agreed candidate.

As chairman of the Israeli Association of Judges, Lindenstrauss was one of the key liaisons between the judiciary and the political establishment. In the past few years Lindenstrauss also headed the Knesset Fund for the Needy, a post that brought him into contact with Knesset Speaker Rivlin and prepared him to become Rivlin's choice for Israel's seventh state comptroller. "Among other projects, we dealt with performing artists who were reduced to poverty," Rivlin says. In the last Knesset elections, Lindenstrauss chaired the Elections Committee in Haifa. The other heads of the district Elections Committees were district judges, some of them retired, or deputy presidents of Magistrate's Courts. There was no other District Court president or deputy president.

Lindenstrauss' candidacy was submitted by 18 MKs from various parties. But his major backers were Rivlin and the members of what can be called the Haifa lobby, notably MK Amram Mitzna (Labor) and Reshef Chayne, chairman of the Shinui faction in the Knesset. Responding to the allegation that he was the chairman of the Lindenstrauss lobby, Chayne says, "I was more the secretary. The letter of candidacy was printed on my computer and I got the backers to sign." According to Chayne, Lindenstrauss "is serious, honest and worthy. I knew him as a Haifa lawyer and I can't think of anything bad about him."

Isn't it pretty unusual for politicians to run a campaign for a judge?

Lindenstrauss: "The Knesset - that is, politicians - elects the comptroller."

The three people who led your campaign - Rivlin, Mitzna and Chayne - might become cabinet ministers. Will you treat any possible political appointments they may make in the same way you would those made by any other politician?

"Do you think I would pervert justice? Never. In my whole life you will not find even one case in which I did not act according to the rules of equality. Each of the 18 people who signed for my candidacy knows that I will act according to the rules of equality. Who knows me better than the Haifa residents? If I were not suitable, would Mitzna have gone for me?"

Barak's pal

Lindenstrauss frequently turned his gaze outward from the judicial system, and not only in connection with the Haifa mayoralty. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for state comptroller in the last round, too, seven years ago. He was twice a candidate for attorney general - in 1997, after the two-day tenure of attorney Roni Bar-On (in the round in which Elyakim Rubinstein was eventually appointed); and last year, when he was approached by the Bach Commission, which was searching for candidates (in the round in which Menachem Mazuz was appointed).

Controversy attended at least the first occasion on which he was a candidate for attorney general. The post was offered to him by the chairman of the Bar Association at the time, attorney Dror Hoter-Yishai, who according to an opinion rendered by then state attorney, Edna Arbel, had worked for Bar-On's appointment. (Hoter-Yishai unsuccessfully sued Arbel for slander.) Around the same time, Hoter-Yishai was indicted for tax offenses. (He was convicted in Magistrate's Court and acquitted on appeal.)

Lindenstrauss says that initially, he rejected the idea. Hoter-Yishai then approached him again, this time on behalf of the Bar Association. Lindenstrauss went to Jerusalem to consult with Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. "Barak told me, `Micha, your advancement has to be within the system. Don't leave. You have important missions ahead of you.' And in fact, those missions resulted in the presidency of the court. I don't think there is another judge who is as close to President Barak as I am, to this day. It's a pity you didn't hear him yesterday at a reception the Association of Judges held in my honor."

Do you think Barak objected because the proposal came from Hoter-Yishai?

"I don't know if it was because of the identity of the backer. I don't want to say. We know there was a great deal of tension between President Barak and Dror Hoter-Yishai. The fact is that I went to Barak to consult with him. I told him, `Mr. President, if you support me I will go for it, and if you are opposed I will drop it, but you make the decision.' Barak told me to drop it, and I did so, immediately. From the secretary's office I called Dror and told him, `Dror, I am dropping it.'"

This time around, Barak supported Lindenstrauss, even if he may have preferred a retired Supreme Court justice. Barak's support has considerable public significance.

Another reason for being suspicious of Lindenstrauss are his excellent relations with the media. "I think the press is an extremely important instrument," he says. "I am living in 2005 and I travel all over the world. I saw how things are conducted in Canada, where every court has a spokesman judge, and in Europe, where everything is open and the relations are excellent. Why should I view you and your colleagues as the enemies of the people? Why should I have to hide everything when a reporter arrives? Everything is open and frank. I am proud of that."

However, as distinct from a judge, whose ties with the media may be controversial, there is no doubt that the state comptroller has to be able to maneuver the media. Because the state comptroller has very few sanctions at his disposal apart from publicity, the media is actually his main ally. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yahad), a former chairman of the Knesset's State Control Committee, is convinced that Lindenstrauss' ability to work with the media is a tremendous advantage. In addition, he maintains excellent human relations; he displays a personal attitude toward all the employees under him.

Independent and impartial

Many of those interviewed for this article say that Lindenstrauss will not be a soft and convenient state comptroller. "The experience with him as a judge shows that the man easily differentiates between his personal fondness and the decisions to be made," says a senior attorney. "People say he will be nice to the politicians, but in my opinion that won't happen. He will take account of the public's attitude, not that of the politicians."

Knesset Speaker Rivlin declares: "I am one million percent convinced he will be independent and impartial. Everyone who is fantasizing something else is in for a big surprise. There were cases in which I asked him to consider transferring money from the Knesset Fund for the Needy to a particular association, but he said, `I am sorry, but they do not meet the criteria.'"

Lindenstrauss: "All the stories about the nice guy who smiles all the time and is so sociable are a lot of nonsense. Take my judgments and you will see that where it was necessary to be brutal, I was brutal."

A member of the Knesset Fund's allocations committee relates that productive cooperation was forged between Lindenstrauss and attorney Amnon de Hartoch, who heads the unit for supporting organizations in the Attorney General's Office and for more than a decade has been in charge of ensuring that all state allocations are strictly kosher. Lindenstrauss, the committee member says, "let everyone have his say, but in the end the decisions were made under the absolute influence of de Hartoch. A committee like this is likely to get requests from MKs and public figures. That was never felt in the meetings. He always gave total backing to the professional team." This is apparently the background to Lindenstrauss' decision, this week, to appoint Yaakov Borovsky, the former chief of the Police Northern District, his special adviser in the war against corruption.

An irritating term

The main criticism voiced against you is that you can't abide criticism.

"That is not true. You are about to get to the subject of the feedback survey, right? First of all, who likes criticism? Show me the Jew who likes criticism and we will all heap praise on him. Don't forget that I was the judges' representative: for 10 years I headed the Israeli Association of Judges."

Much of your activity was invested in repelling criticism of the judicial system. For example, the struggle against the imposition of sanctions on judges and your sharp reaction to the visits paid by the justice minister at the time, Yossi Beilin, to courtrooms in disguise.

"That is irritating. Yes, it's true, he came to the court in disguise."

Last week the Bar Association published its feedback survey of judges for 2005, but for some reason Lindenstrauss' grade was omitted. In the 2004 survey he received a middling grade of 3.1 out of a possible 5, one of the lowest grades in Haifa District Court - though it's more than probable that his battle against the survey prompted lawyers to give him a low score.

Lindenstrauss said in reaction that the feedback survey constitutes a "public insult and a settling of scores. The feedback survey is dangerous for the judicial system and jeopardizes its independence." Rejecting the proposals of then justice minister Yosef Lapid (Shinui), Lindenstrauss took the lead in organizing a boycott by judges of social events organized by the Bar Association. That's a painful sanction, as it greatly affects the prestige of such events. The boycott is particularly obvious at the Bar Association's annual convention in Eilat.

Wouldn't you say that a boycott is a bit exaggerated?

"That term is irritating, because there is no boycott. That term was affixed to us by the same people who labeled us the `judges committee.'"

Aren't you a committee?

"The Association of Judges is neither a committee nor a trade union. It is the council of Israel's judges."

What do you do besides looking after terms of employment and other interests of the judges?

"What about the international sphere? If only Israel's international relations were like those of the Association of Judges. We are an international powerhouse. Who achieved that? The Association of Judges.

"The word `boycott' is misplaced," Lindenstrauss says, "because we uphold every statutory item. The examiners in the Bar Association exams are judges and they are continuing to fulfill that task. But if the Bar Association holds receptions, judges do not show up. The reason is simple: yesterday you publicly insulted a judge in the feedback survey - and today you want to have a glass of wine or beer with him? You cannot force me to be friends with someone and you also cannot force me to deliver a talk at the convention of the Bar Association in Eilat - the same Bar Association that ignores my standing."

Isn't it a bit odd that someone who objects so strongly to the public affront inflicted on judges in the feedback survey has announced the establishment of a committee that will examine the possibility of publishing the names of public officials found guilty of failures in the State Comptroller's Report? Isn't that also a public affront?

"I think that will have a first-rate deterrent effect. I appointed a committee to examine all the aspects, and the subject of public insult will certainly be considered. I of course will not express an opinion."

Lindenstrauss was not appointed to the Supreme Court. Rivlin does not think there is any reason to make the post of state comptroller the exclusive preserve of retired Supreme Court justices. On the contrary: Lindenstrauss has one big advantage that many justices lack, namely administrative experience. He managed a large court, and on top of it did so during the period when it moved from its antiquated headquarters to the Palace of Justice in Haifa, which, Lindenstrauss does not forget to note, "is today the largest in the Middle East - not in Israel: in the Middle East."

It is said that you did not issue any important rulings.

"That is most maddening of all. Show me other justices in the Israeli Supreme Court who wrote creative judicial literature as I did. Yesterday, in the reception of the Association of Judges, Barak recalled that `Micha is the man of letters of the judicial world.' The book on reasonable doubt sold out in record time, as far as I know. Legal literature doesn't sell out so fast. Go through my list of judgments and you will see for yourself how many of them were precedent-setting. There is my interpretation on the subject of class-action suits, which is now followed in all the courts in Israel.


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