Former prime minister Olmert and his ex-bureau chief Shula Zaken.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was questioned for eight hours by police on Monday under suspicion of having obstructed justice by trying to convince his former top aide, Shula Zaken, not to cooperate with the prosecution.
Reports surfaced from anonymous sources close to Olmert accusing Zaken of having tried to solicit and entrap Olmert, but saying that Olmert did not take the bait.
The reports also indicated that Zaken approached Olmert for counsel when she was offered a plea bargain by the state at a much earlier date and that he contends that anything he said to her was permitted on the principle that co-defendants can plan joint trial strategy.
Questioned on Army Radio about the accusations against Zaken, her lawyer, Ofer Bartal, said that he could not fully respond since the investigation was ongoing, but intimated that Olmert’s real actions, which police would confront him with, would not reflect well on him.
Olmert was already expected to be questioned by police on Sunday on the new allegations, but his questioning was delayed.
In place of questioning him immediately, Alfred Akirov, an associate who reportedly paid for much of Zaken’s legal defense at Olmert’s request, and Navot Tal Zur, who has been part of Olmert’s legal team, were expected to be questioned first.
Often the police save questioning their main target until they have completed questioning all relevant witnesses, from whom they can obtain information to confront their main target with.
Olmert’s spokesman, Amir Dan, blasted law enforcement, saying that he expected “more humanity” from the prosecution.
“The stubbornness of the prosecution about the police questioning Olmert at this specific moment, only days after his conviction and when he is preparing for sentencing arguments, is targeted at two purposes: to break Mr. Olmert at all costs and to improperly influence the arguments on sentencing.”
Dan added that Olmert had been “dragged through the mud for eight years” and that the prosecution was trying to cover for its embarrassment at the court seeming to reject its deal with Zaken as one of poor judgment.
Olmert’s sentencing hearing in the Holyland bribery trial is set for April 28.
Following signing a plea bargain with the prosecution, Zaken has reportedly provided the prosecution with a laundry list of attempts by Olmert, some possibly on tape, to pressure her not to cooperate with the cases against him.
Though Olmert was already convicted last week
on bribery charges in the Holyland case and may face jail time from that case alone, the new charges could be a whole new problematic legal front for him.
Also, Zaken reportedly has information for the prosecution that it might try to use to overturn Olmert’s July 2012 acquittals in the Jerusalem corruption trial, currently on appeal before the Supreme Court.
In exchange for her cooperation, the prosecution on Tuesday fulfilled its promise to withdraw appeals pending before the Supreme Court against Zaken’s partial acquittals from the same Jerusalem corruption trial.
The prosecution is also expected to try to convince Holyland trial Judge David Rozen to give Zaken a relatively lenient sentence of 11 months in prison.