Deputy A-G: Review Holyland after Olmert acquital

Raz Nazri says prosecutor's office always must assess impact of all decisions on whether, how to bring future cases.

By
July 11, 2012 09:21
3 minute read.
Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict

Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict 370. (photo credit: Emile Solomon/ Haaretz)

 
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A day after former president Ehud Olmert's dramatic acquittal on two of the three main charges against him, the deputy attorney general said Wednesday that the prosecution would consider whether the court ruling would impact on the Holyland trial.

Deputy attorney-general Raz Nizri told Army Radio that the prosecution will now "consider afresh how to deal with the second indictment against [Olmert]."

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Olmert has been charged alongside 15 others - including his former bureau chief Shula Zaken - over the Holyland affair, in which real estate developers allegedly paid tens of millions of shekels to public employees and elected officials to advance the Holyland project in Jerusalem, including by shortening planning times, smoothing over planning objections, rezoning land, granting tax breaks and increasing the permitted amount of construction.

"I am convinced that whoever is dealing with [the Holyland case] will do his duty as an attorney, and check whether there are any consequences," Nizri said, adding that this was "an obligation with regard to all cases."

Olmert's press spokesman, Amir Dan, has also called for the prosecution to reconsider its position regarding Holyland, particularly in the light of the court ruling on the Talansky affair.

Dan argued that the state witness in the Holyland case, known only as S.D., is unreliable, as was Talansky.

"The court gave a very clear statement about what happens when the prosecution relies on a central witness who lied," Dan said of the Talansky affair acquittal.

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He added: "It's vital that the prosecution learn a lesson and that they internalize the court's message. In the Holyland case there is a witness who lied so many times that compared to him Talansky is a saint."

In Tuesday's ruling on the Talansky case, judges Moussia Arad, Moshe Sobel and Jacob Zaban wrote that the New York businessman had been a "controversial witness."

"Part of his testimony proved correct, but other things [he said] are not correct and even untrue. Some of his testimony was mistaken, confused and sometimes driven by concerns, interests, forgetting and sophistry," the judges wrote in their 742-page ruling.

And as the prosecution began studying that ruling in earnest on Wednesday, they are faced with decisions over whether to appeal in the Supreme Court against the court's decision to acquit Olmert on the Rishon Tours and Talansky charges.

Olmert's lawyer, attorney Eli Zohar, said on Tuesday that it would be "clearly inappropriate" for the prosecution to appeal.

The prosecution will also now consider what penalty to request judges impose on Olmert when the court convenes to hear sentencing arguments on September 5th.

The former prime minister was found guilty of breach of trust over the Investment Center affair, which centered on allegations that he granted illegal favors to his former law partner, Uri Messer, during his tenure as minister of trade, labor and industry.

In Tuesdays' ruling, the judges wrote of the Investment Center affair that: "We cannot overstate the severity of the damage caused to public confidence in public service."

The court will likely pass sentence sometime after the September hearing, and its ruling will decide Olmert's political future.

The Penal Code stipulates that the maximum sentence for breach of trust is three years in prison, however experts have said that the prosecution is unlikely to ask the court to impose jail time on Olmert.

The former prime minister's lawyer, Eli Zohar, told reporters that there was no legal precedent for the court to hand down a prison sentence for such a conviction.

However, the prosecution could request that the court rule the offense for which Olmert was convicted amounts to moral turpitude. If the court agreed to that request, it will effectively bar Olmert from returning to politics for seven years.

After the court ruling on Tuesday, Jerusalem District attorney Eli Abarbanel said that the breach of trust conviction was serious and constituted moral turpitude, whereas Olmert's attorneys said it amounted to an ethical breach and not a criminal offense.

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