High Court won't force state to put Zaken on stand against Olmert; Verdict to go forward

High Court rejects a petition to compel the state to agree to a plea bargain with Shula Zaken.

March 25, 2014 20:57
1 minute read.
Olmert and Zaken

Former prime minister Olmert and his ex-bureau chief Shula Zaken. (photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a petition to compel the state to agree to a plea bargain with Shula Zaken in order to get her to testify against her former boss Ehud Olmert in the Holyland trial.

The bizarre lineup pitted the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel and Zaken against Olmert and the state.

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Zaken, the former prime minister’s longtime bureau chief, recently made an eleventh hour push to turn state’s witness against fellow defendant Olmert.

But the state said it was too late in the trial, that her new testimony had too many inconsistencies and that she had failed to present evidence to verify parts of her story that contradicted her earlier testimony.

The Holyland trial involves 16 prominent defendants, accused of smoothing over legal and zoning obstacles to construction in south Jerusalem in exchange for millions of shekels in bribes.

The Tel Aviv District Court is still set to issue its verdict on March 31.

Responding to the state’s refusal to cut a deal, and with Zaken’s public support, the Movement for the Quality of Government filed the petition to compel the state to change its stance.

At the outset of Monday’s hearing on the issue, Justice Isaac Amit, one of three more junior justices on the panel, noted that there were not legal precedents for compelling the state to accept such a deal.

This issue was ultimately decisive for the court, with the NGO unable to muster a sufficient legal response.

The NGO had responded that because Olmert was a potential future prime minister, so the case was so important to the public interest that her new testimony needed to be heard in court and by the public.

It added that it has often pressed the court in setting new precedents when the issue was important enough to the country.

The court rejected these arguments.

It echoed the state’s argument that Zaken could still return to testify against Olmert if she made her own request to the court, but without a plea bargain with the state.

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