Arutz-7 Trial Is Over

, | updated: 17:33

The trial of the "Arutz-7 Ten" has come to an end, as both the prosecution and the defendants withdrew their appeals yesterday against the original ruling. Both sides had appealed the sentences handed down against ten Arutz-7 station managers and broadcasters seven months ago.

The Jerusalem District Court judges expressed strong criticism of the state and the prosecution in their handling of the case against Arutz-7:
"It is inconceivable that the state would take out its rage against the pirate radio stations by punishing the leaders of Arutz-7... [which] operated throughout the years with the encouragement of the authorities; the Knesset even legislated a law to legalize it."

The judges began by recommending that both sides withdraw their appeals, and the defense team agreed. The prosecution then did the same - except for the fine levied against Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz, the station's executive-director, which it insisted be increased. The judges were not happy with this position, and hinted that if the prosecution did not withdraw its appeal totally, they would have much to say about the entire trial against Arutz-7. The prosecution team then consulted amongst themselves once again, and agreed to drop their entire appeal.

The final sentences are thus as follows: Katz, Programming Director Shulamit Melamed, Engineer Ya'ir Meir, and News Editor Haggai Segal must serve 3-6 months of community service each, while each of the ten defendants must pay between 20,000 and 50,000 shekels each. In addition, Arutz-7 itself was fined a total of 450,000 shekels.

Arutz-7 radio ceased broadcasts on Oct. 20 of last year, only two hours after a Jerusalem court convicted ten Arutz-7 directors and staff members of broadcasting without a license.

The Yesha Council issued a statement at the time saying that the Arutz-7 convicts are idealists who are termed "law breakers" only because the governments of Israel never enabled an "open skies" broadcasting policy. MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union), the legislator who had been the most active on behalf of Arutz-7 over the years, said, "The court has decided to punish hundreds of thousands of listeners." Hevron Jewish Community leader Noam Arnon said, "The only reason the left-wing spends so much time and effort on Arutz-7 is because Arutz-7 has been such a great success as a mouthpiece for such a vast audience in Israel."

Just prior to stopping its broadcasts, Arutz-7 announced,

"To the precious and loyal listening public of Arutz-7, may G-d bless you from Zion.

"For some 15 years, Arutz-7 has broadcast Torah lessons and love of the People and the Land, with the participation of the leaders of Israel. The broadcasts accompanied and aided in the development of Torah in Israel and settlement of the Land.

"Following the decision of the Likud Government of yesterday to prevent advertising on non-licensed stations, and following today's court decision, the management of Arutz-7 has decided to stop all broadcasts on the radio, beginning at 5 PM this evening.

"Peace upon all."

On February 23, 1999, the Knesset passed a law formally licensing Arutz-7 - and within hours, left-wing MKs Yossi Sarid, Chaim Oron, and Eitan Cabel submitted petitions against it. Over three years later, on March 26, 2002, the Supreme Court deemed the duly passed Knesset law null and void. It ruled that the special Arutz-7 law harms the country's "rule of law" as well as the "freedom of occupation" of potential competitors.

Arutz-7's broadcasts continue as usual on the internet, at "" in English, and "" in Hebrew. They can also be heard by phone (in Hebrew) at: 057-777-7777, 03-606-6777, 050-822-2233, and 054-476-6011. From abroad, dial country code 972 and then the above numbers without the first 0.

Legislative efforts to allow Arutz-7 to resume broadcasts on a national scale continue, albeit slowly. Communications Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing legislation for a new Communications Authority, under which are to be established three new stations, including one for which Arutz-7 could compete. It does not appear that the proposal will be ready in the near future, however; Ministers Netanyahu and Livnat have nixed a new draft prepared by Olmert because, they say, he inserted changes that would increase his own authorities over and beyond that which had been previously agreed.