Former prime minister Ehud Olmert responded on Wednesday night to reports that his former top adviser Shula Zaken may testify against him in the Holyland trial, saying that, if true, the reports showed the weakness in the state’s case.
Numerous media reports surfaced on Wednesday night indicating that Zaken, angry at perceived mistreatment by Olmert during the Holyland case, broke her silence on issues relating to Olmert in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The reports could be a hoax and part of any number of mind-game or revenge scenarios that have played out before in the various cases, with Zaken ultimately never taking a deal.
Olmert was acquitted of most charges in the Jerusalem corruption trial, and the Holyland trial is near its end. Zaken’s lawyer delivered closing arguments on Tuesday.
Zaken was convicted of multiple charges in the Jerusalem corruption trial, and is expected to be convicted of minor charges in the Holyland trial, and possibly the major charge of bribery, which could carry jail time.
The Jerusalem corruption trial involved a variety of scandals connected to Olmert. The Holyland trial deals with a massive bribery and fraud scheme relating to 15 other defendants besides Olmert.
Many observers said Zaken was convicted in the Jerusalem corruption trial because she protected Olmert by refusing to answer questions.
Some have said that her defense in the Holyland trial has been difficult because she tried to protect him while testifying.
The former prime minister’s defense team responded that “the state is in a desperate situation because it knows that the evidence it presented to the court was not enough to prove its claims against Mr. Olmert.
“If, in fact, the state has asked to sign a plea bargain agreement for Ms. Zaken to turn state’s witness and to return her to the witness stand for her to contradict her court testimony,” then Olmert’s lawyers “would not be surprised by this,” the statement continued. The prosecution’s attempt to strike a deal with Zaken at this stage shows the “desperate evidentiary situation of the state” and that it is ready to try to “convict Mr. Olmert at any price.”
If the reports are true and Zaken turns state’s witness in both cases, it would be highly unusual and require special permission from the court, as the Jerusalem corruption trial has already concluded and the state has concluded its Holyland case.
It is unclear whether Zaken turning state’s witness will affect Olmert or whether the court will disregard any new testimony she tries to make that disputes her previous statements.
The Justice Ministry refused to comment, but, in saying that it does not comment on discussions with defense lawyers, appeared to imply that there might be discussions with Zaken’s lawyers.