The state and former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday found themselves on the same side against Shula Zaken in dueling legal briefs before the High Court of Justice.
The matter in question was whether Olmert’s former top aide would add new testimony against Olmert in the Holyland trial.
Zaken told the High Court, through her lawyers, that she was ready to return to the witness stand and testify against Olmert and other defendants, even without a deal, in order to arrive at the truth.
The series of legal briefs came in the wake of an NGO’s petition to the High Court to compel the state to reverse its decision to refuse Zaken’s request for a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against Olmert.
The Holyland trial pits the state against Olmert, Zaken and 14 other prominent defendants for one of the largest bribery and fraud schemes in the country’s history – relating to the Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem.
The NGO, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, said that the court should order the state to cut a deal with Zaken in order to get her testimony against Olmert, the “biggest fish” in the case.
The Movement called the state’s refusal to cut a deal with Zaken extremely unreasonable, since the state had wanted to cut a deal with her earlier in the case. The state and Olmert demurred.
The state said that it was not the court’s place to render any decision about the state’s professional judgment on matters such as whether to open or close a case or agree to a plea bargain – other than in the most extreme circumstances.
It objected to the Movement even filing the petition, saying that even in the extreme cases where the court might intervene, petitions were filed by victims or persons directly impacted by the case, not an NGO with no direct connection.
Regarding the substance of its decision not to cut a deal with Zaken, the state cited the extremely late stage of the case in which she had a change of heart, inconsistencies in her new version of events relating to the charges against her personally and her lack of external evidence to confirm her accusations against Olmert – and her preference of her new version of events over the old version that she testified to in court.
The state said that despite its unwillingness to make a deal, if she wished to request that the court allow her to provide more testimony, it would not stand in her way and leave the issue to Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen’s discretion.
Olmert’s legal team made many of the same arguments, but added that having seen a transcript of her statements to police (which they are prohibited from disclosing to the public) it was clear that they were falsified statements.
They said she made up all of the allegations in anger over Olmert’s refusal to corroborate her story – that her romance with the state’s main witness Shmuel Duchner was the reason for Duchner giving her gifts, and that they weren’t bribes for help with the Holyland project.
His legal team also slammed the press for printing all sorts of allegations that Zaken allegedly made against Olmert, which they said were not even part of her statements to police.