Former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Talansky retrial, March 30, 2011..
(photo credit: MOR SHAULI)
As former prime minister Ehud Olmert left Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle on parole Sunday morning, his Australian- born Diaspora affairs adviser remained in legal purgatory.
Rachael Risby Raz, a former Olmert staffer, was the first figure connected to him when he was indicted in 2009. Eight long years later, her fate has still been undecided, making it hard for Risby Raz to find a job because every job application asks her legal status, which remains under indictment.
Normally, staffers are indicted and tried before or at the same time as their more famous supervisors. The idea behind that is the prosecution only goes after the “big fish” once it has all the information it needs from the “smaller fish.”
Yet, in Risby Raz’s case, the prosecution decided to wait to move forward against her until all of Olmert’s appeals were exhausted and all his cases ended. This did not occur until December 2015 and February 2016, respectively.
The idea seems to have been to use some of the factual findings in the Olmert cases regarding Risby Raz against her in her own case – though some findings were also helpful to her.
Once Olmert’s cases were concluded, the state reinitiated Risby Raz’s case.
Though she tried to have her indictment quashed because of the delay and the positive findings which the court made about her in the Olmert case, in November 2016, the Jerusalem District Court green-lighted her trial.
Since then, the prosecution has amended the indictment and both sides have engaged in procedural legal battles to the extent that the trial still has not kicked into full gear. The next trial date for Risby Raz is not until September.
“I am very happy for Ehud, but on the other hand I am sad that I am still trapped in this process,” she told The Jerusalem Post
. “It would be nice if this was all done and I could move on with my life.”
Risby Raz, 42, remains loyal to Olmert and bears no grudge against him. She is thankful to him for hiring her after she converted in 2000 and made aliya from Melbourne in 2001. She worked for him from 2001 through 2009, and he promoted her when she was eight months pregnant.
“I am thankful for the opportunity he gave me to serve my country,” she said. “Ehud is a father figure to me. I have no claim against him, I don’t blame him for what happened. I am a victim of the system, not a victim of Ehud Olmert.”
Risby Raz was the main witness in Rishon Tours case against Olmert and his chief-of-staff Shula Zaken.
In that case, the prime minister was accused of double-booking trips abroad and using money from trips that were paid twice to finance flights for family members.
Olmert was exonerated in that case, while Zaken was convicted but not given prison time. Zaken did serve time in prison as part of a plea bargain related to the Holyland real estate affair.
Risby Raz testified 29 times over five months in the Rishon Tours affair at the Jerusalem District Court. The judges wrote in Olmert’s conviction that, from the partial evidence related to her they viewed, Risby Raz acted innocently and did not lie. Despite that finding by the Olmert court, Risby Raz’s own panel of judges said they needed to fully review the evidence against her to make a decision.
“I did not get anything from [Rishon Tours],” said Risby Raz. “I never flew with the prime minister. They might have thought they could break me and deliver Olmert on a silver platter because I was a new immigrant with no family, but I wasn’t willing to lie.”
Now that Olmert is free, there are those who have told Risby Raz to ask him for assistance. He has been known over the years to aid those who worked with him. Even in prison there were stories about him fighting for the rights of his cell mates.
“I am not sure if I will ask for help,” she said. “He needs to rest and recover now.”