Judges refuse to declare Messer hostile witness

Prosecutor says former Olmert aide lied in court and to the police.

By RON FRIEDMAN
March 30, 2011 03:36
2 minute read.
Uri Messer

Uri Messer 311. (photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)

 
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The Jerusalem District Court refused on Tuesday to accept the request of the prosecution in former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s corruption trial to declare Olmert’s longtime friend and former lawyer Uri Messer a hostile witness.

The prosecuting lawyer from the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, Uri Korb, requested that Messer be declared hostile after a week of him testifying in the Investment Center case.

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Korb said Messer’s testimony in the courtroom was vastly different than the statements he had made to police investigators, characterizing it as a “developing version,” based on “intentional lies.”

Korb said Messer lied when he took the stand, and also lied when he was questioned by the police.

“He began by stating that he remembered certain events taking place, and now he’s saying that he believes that was the case. It may seem like a small difference, but it is deeply meaningful and shows a pattern,” Korb said.

Messer's attorneys, Shimon Dolan and Dror Matityahu, responded to the allegations against him, saying that “Messer gave his version of the case before the courts based on fact, gave them according to the best of his memory and will continue to do so. His evidence is clear and balanced that does not contradict past statements, and we therefore regret the prosecution’s chosen position.”

Olmert’s communications adviser Amir Dan said, “The prosecution has a technique that they keep using again and again. When they call up a witness whose testimony does not perfectly fit with the narrative that the prosecution is trying to establish, they immediately call them a hostile witness. It’s time that the prosecution understand that the actual facts, as they occurred, are also an option, and not only the made-up stories that appear in the charge sheet.”

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Olmert allegedly granted favors to Messer, who, in statements last week in court, said that he helped Olmert “without compensation,” and that he simply held Olmert’s funds – at times amounts reaching hundreds of thousands of shekels – in trust.

Dan had said that according to Messer’s statements, it was proven that “there was no secret cashbox, as has been claimed.”

Earlier Tuesday, Messer said that one of the witnesses for the prosecution, former head of the Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry's Investment Center, Shmuel Mordechai, should be prosecuted as a hostile witness after he threatened to take revenge on the former prime minister.

“After he left, Mordechai sent me messages [saying] that he still had a score to settle with Olmert – and testified to that under oath,” Messer told the court.

While the judges ruled out declaring him hostile at the time of the request – a move that would mean that they rely more heavily on his testimony to the police – the issue will be revisited when Messer takes the witness stand again on Thursday.

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