Ehud Olmert after verdict 370.
(photo credit: Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
Prosecutors are considering a recent request by former prime minister Ehud
Olmert to close the Holyland case against him, outgoing deputy State
Attorney-General Shuki Lemberger said late Thursday night.
his comments at an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, with reports
about the highly significant comments surfacing Friday. They were the first and
most forthright public remarks by the state prosecution since the sudden and
dramatic death of its main witness, Shmuel Duchner, in early
Olmert’s legal team and many commentators called for the case
against him to be closed immediately after Duchner’s death, saying that it could
not go forward without the main witness.
To some extent, Lemberger’s
remarks were still cryptic.
“We need to check at every point of the legal
process if there is a reasonable chance for a conviction,” he said, adding that,
“the test will be simple. If there is a chance for a conviction despite the
death of the witness, we’ll move forward with the case.
If we reach the
conclusion that there is no reasonable chance, we won’t continue with the
While this statement was similar to the prosecution’s public
comments immediately after Duchner’s death, the overall thrust was less bold and
confrontational than the original statements, which had indicated an almost
zealous readiness for seeing the case through to the end.
over the weekend speculated about the significance of such a high level official
publicly showing signs of doubt in the case.
Most reports estimated that
the prosecution would decide whether to continue, or to close the case, sometime
after Olmert’s brother, Yossi, testifies from the United States by
video conference in approximately three weeks. It is also possible that the
decision could be made even sooner or may wait to watch developments of the
state’s appeal later this summer of Olmert’s overall acquittal in a separate
Jerusalem corruption case.
Yossi Olmert is one of the remaining key
prosecution witnesses against his brother, but it is unclear how much damaging
information the prosecution will be able to get against Ehud.
Even if the
case against Olmert is eventually closed, it is likely that the prosecution of
at least half of the Holyland case’s 16 defendants will continue, since Duchner
had finished testifying against about half of them before his death.