Shula Zaken 390.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a hearing in the Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday over the Holyland
Affair, former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s aide Shula Zaken told the court that
she had not yet appointed a defense lawyer.
Zaken, who was Olmert’s
bureau chief during his term as mayor of Jerusalem and later during his stint as
finance minister, was one of 13 individuals indicted over the Holyland real
estate scandal, considered one of the largest corruption scandals in the
country’s history. She is charged with receiving bribes in connection with the
Last month, Zaken notably did not attend an arraignment hearing,
and her thenlawyer Micha Pettman – who is representing Zaken in her other trials
– dubbed her a “full-time defendant for the past four years.”
Wednesday, however, Zaken said Pettman was no longer representing her because
she could not afford to pay for a lawyer.
“Your Honor, I want to
apologize for not coming to the last hearing,” Zaken said, asking the court for
permission to have until June to find an attorney and commence the trial, due to
her personal circumstances.
“I am a mother,” she explained to Judge David
Rozen. “I have a child who’s got his bar mitzva coming up in two-and-a-half
That boy was seven-years-old when the police came at six in the
morning to arrest his mom.
I’ve been in court three times a week from
morning until night. I would like to ask for the opportunity to be allowed to
finish with the bar mitzva.”
Judge Rozen allowed Zaken extra time to
appoint legal counsel, ordering her to report to the court by March 25. He said
Zaken would not be permitted to represent herself in the trial, and if she could
not afford her own attorney, she would be provided with a public
Rozen added that the court would keep to its prearranged
schedule for the trial, however, because of the large number of defendants. The
next hearing is scheduled for July 1 at 8.30 a.m.
Zaken is also indicted
alongside Olmert in the former prime minister’s corruption trial in the
Jerusalem District Court. She denies the charges against her.
ago, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Zaken of fraud and breach of
trust in the Tax Authority Affair, finding that she abused her position as
Olmert’s bureau chief in the Finance Ministry to advance her brother’s personal
Outside the courtroom, Zaken told reporters that she still has
confidence in the courts, but not in “those who brought this whole issue to
court,” referring to the state attorney’s office. Zaken added that she was not
angry with Olmert.
Olmert’s former bureau chief also said she had not
taken bribes, but that the state’s witness in the affair – whose identity is
subject to a gag order and is known only as S.D. – had done so. Zaken accused
state prosecutors of “publicly bribing the state witness.”
alongside Zaken and Olmert in the Holyland Affair are former Jerusalem mayor and
chairman of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee Uri
Lupolianski, former Jerusalem deputy mayor and city councilman Eliezer
Simhayoff, city councilman Avraham Finer, and former city engineer Uri Sheetrit.
Also charged include businessman Hillel Cherny, who owned land rights to the
Holyland project, former Polar Investments CEO Avigdor Kelner, who owns a stake
in Holyland, Polar Investments manager Amnon Safran, Shimon Galon, the CEO of
Kardan Real Estate, which also owned a stake in the project; and Jerusalem
entrepreneur Meir Rabin.
In addition to the 13 defendants, three
companies are also named on the indictment: Holyland Tayerut Ltd., which is held
by Polar Investments, Holyland Park Ltd.
and Holyland Leisure Services
Ltd., for which Cherny serves as director. Former chairman of Bank Hapoalim and
Israel Salt Industries Dan Dankner and former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov
Efrati are also charged with giving and receiving bribes relating to rezoning of
salt flats in Atlit and Eilat.