Olmert Trial Postponed Until Next Month


olmertThe Yerushalayim District Court today decided to postpone legal proceeding against former prime minister Ehud Olmert by a month, to avoid muddling different corruption allegations together in a single trial.

Olmert’s defense attorney earlier today asked the court to halt the trial being carried out against the former prime minister until the investigation into a newly revealed corruption case has been completed.

“There is no point in getting into legal proceedings that are cut off, disabled, affected and defective,” said attorney Eli Zohar. “What is happening today is a dance of the demons. Everything is being carried out in here quietly and tranquilly, but there is a storm outside. This trial cannot be held right now, until a decision has been made [on the Holyland case].”

Zohar was referring to a series of allegations involving bribes paid to obtain permits for a number of real estate projects, one of which has been identified as the highly controversial “Holyland” residence project in Yerushalayim.

The project, built on the site of the Holyland Hotel despite large-scale public protests, was promoted during Olmert’s decade-long tenure as mayor of Yerushalayim.

Two other projects, which were never implemented, concern developing tourism at the Manara Cliff site in the Upper Galilee and construction at the former site of the Hiriya landfill, which today is being converted into a park. Both projects were promoted when Olmert served as industry, trade and labor minister.

Olmert’s legal adviser Amir Dan today dismissed rumors that the former prime minister would be arrested for alleged corruption upon his return to Israel from a trip abroad.

“As of now, no legal authority has asked Olmert to cut short his trip abroad, or change his plans,” said Dan. “Mr. Olmert will continue with his plans abroad and when he finishes his business, he will return to Israel. We are not considering the possibility that the police would put on some show just to put on a show.”

Olmert had already been scheduled to return to Israel yesterday, but extended his trip in the United States and Europe until next week.

Attorney Uri Messer, a former close confidant of Olmert, was arrested yesterday on charges of serving as an intermediary in the alleged bribery scheme. Five other suspects were also arrested in connection with the charges.

At the hearing yesterday on the suspects’ remand, the deputy president of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court, Abraham Heiman, said this was “one of the worse corruption affairs in Israeli history.”

“If the investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to serve an indictment, the effects will be earth-shattering,” Heiman said.

Messer is suspected of facilitating bribes, accepting bribes, false registration, obstruction of justice and money laundering. His remand was extended yesterday by six days, but he said he would appeal.

Another suspect in the case is architect Uri Sheetrit, who served as Yerushalayim city architect from 2001 to 2006. He is alleged to have accepted bribes in exchange for supporting the Holyland project and joining other planning and construction officials in its promotion.

Police add that while Sheetrit was initially opposed to the project, he later became an enthusiastic supporter, actively promoting it to the benefit of the entrepreneurs. Sheetrit himself claimed that he had never approved the project. His remand was extended by eight days.

{Haaretz/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}