Former prime minister Ehud Olmert may have received a big break on Sunday in his
defense in the Holyland trial, as his attorney, Roi Belcher, revealed a section
of the primary state witness’s diary, including a list of people who received
bribes that failed to mention Olmert’s name.
If Judge David Rozen finds
the absence of Olmert’s name from the list of individuals who received bribes in
the diary of “S.D.” – as he is referred to under a gag order – as convincing
evidence that the witness did not bribe Olmert, the latter could be found
innocent of all charges.
Olmert’s public relations team practically
celebrated the event, releasing a statement which said, “A list of the supposed
‘bribees’ [those being bribed], prepared by S.D. for himself in his personal
diary proves it: Olmert did not receive a bribe.”
significance was highlighted by Olmert’s attendance at the trial, having mostly
sent only his lawyers and not having appeared in court in months.
series of questions was also a classic set-up.
First, Belcher asked S.D.
who the most important of the people he had bribed was – to which S.D. responded
that it was Olmert.
Next, Belcher asked S.D., if he made a list of those
who accepted bribes, who would be at the top? To which S.D.
that the most important person he had bribed was Olmert. Next, Belcher got S.D. to say that, without question, he had
not made such a list.
Belcher then caught S.D. blindsided, unveiling the
diary in dramatic fashion, a diary which S.D.
apparently did not recall,
but did not deny was in his handwriting, and which the state had not known
Despite the examination’s findings, S.D. continued to claim that
the former prime minister was the “central bribe taker” in the case.
section of the diary, S.D. had written a list of “payments made for ‘Holyland,’”
followed by a list of names that did not include Olmert’s.
continually questioned S.D. regarding the fact that Olmert’s name was missing
from the list. The witness admitted in response that he had omitted Olmert’s
name, but he said he could not remember, or explain, why.
On S.D.’s list
of “bribe takers,” the names of other defendants in the case, and individuals
connected to Olmert who allegedly took bribes – Shula Zaken and Yossi Olmert –
were also missing.
Although S.D. initially said he had not written such a
list, he later said, “I don’t remember that list, if I wrote it, or where it was
taken from,” while admitting that the list was in his handwriting.
also lashed out at the defense, and essentially accused it, or some third party,
of stealing his diary from an office space he had previously
However, S.D. appeared bewildered when explaining how the
defense had acquired the diary, or who had “stolen” it, or provided it to the
According to Belcher, the list was written in 2008 when S.D. met
with his attorneys, Amnon Yitzhak and Ilan Sobel, in a separate civil
litigation, to prepare his statement against the entrepreneur in charge of the
Holyland project, Hillel Cherny.
This could also give greater weight to
the diary, proving that Olmert did not receive bribes, as it is from a time
period before the criminal litigation had started – a period which many legal
practitioners consider a purer test of what a person truly
Because S.D.’s conversations with Yitzhak and Sobel were in the
context of an attorney-client relationship, S.D. has attorney-client privilege
to refuse to answer any questions about them, and can also prevent anyone from
questioning Yitzhak and Sobel about those discussions.
to ask S.D. to waive his attorney-client privilege on the issue.
going to claim that you [S.D.] provided false witness in this case, under the
privilege of your attorneys,” Belcher asserted.
S.D. stated in response,
“Do what you like, but I will not give up on my privilege.”
tried another indirect way to get S.D. to describe his discussions of the list,
and of Olmert’s involvement in the Holyland project, he responded, “You cannot
call me Talansky,” implying he would not be fooled indirectly into contradicting
himself and waiving privileges like Morris Talansky, the state’s star witness in
the Talansky Affair in the Jerusalem corruption trial against Olmert.
reason why Belcher pressed the issue was that S.D. himself has admitted that the
original story he provided to the authorities regarding the Holyland project was
embellished and contained significant false material.
Belcher said he
wanted to better understand S.D.’s evolution from his partly false story to what
he says is his current true story.
To that extent, Belcher wondered why
Olmert was not mentioned at the top of the list of individuals who accepted
bribes that S.D. presented to his lawyers.
“Is there a chance that in
conversations with your attorneys you did not mention Olmert first?” S.D.
responded that he had no memory of such a conversation and that “when Olmert
waives his privilege, I will do so as well.”
Olmert’s attorney believes
that the list in S.D.’s diary could represent a substantial breakthrough for
Olmert’s defense of the case against him.