Olmert files libel suit against State Attorney Lador

Former PM says that Lador ruined his reputation by calling Olmert's actions "scandalous" in a newspaper interview.

By RON FRIEDMAN
February 17, 2011 13:57
4 minute read.
Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert 311. (photo credit: Pool/Yediot Aharonot)

 
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Former prime minister Ehud Olmert has followed through on his threat to sue State Attorney Moshe Lador over things Lador said about him in an interview published in Haaretz.

On Thursday, Olmert’s lawyers filed a defamation lawsuit against Lador and Haaretz at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, asking for NIS 150,000 in damages.

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The State Attorney’s Office called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

Olmert said that Lador ruined his reputation when Lador described a $75,000 loan Olmert had received from American businessman Josef Elmaliach in 1993 as “extraordinarily scandalous,” and claimed that Olmert had yet to return the money.

“Mr. Lador’s extensive references to an ongoing proceeding in Mr. Olmert’s affairs and another ongoing investigation, which is awaiting Lador’s decision [the Holyland Affair], combined with what he said about the loan Mr. Olmert received from Mr.

Elmaliach, severely violated Mr. Olmert’s basic rights as a suspect and an accused party, and defamed him,” the lawsuit reads. “The right of suspects to due process is a basic right, an indivisible part of their right to dignity and freedom.”

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Olmert’s lawyers attacked Lador and his handling of the matter, but also hurled severe criticism against the entire prosecution system.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to Mr. Olmert, the state attorney has long ago crossed all definitions and restrictions. Yesterday’s wrongs have become right.

What was once inappropriate is now appropriate. On the other hand, any professional and legitimate criticism of the state attorney’s conduct is immediately presented by him as a battle of light against darkness. This is not the conduct of a properly run prosecution system,” the lawsuit reads.

The suit went on to describe the conditions of the loan and Olmert’s practice over the years of reporting on it to both the State Comptrollers Office and in annual conflictof- interest report forms.

Olmert’s lawyers also wrote that the loan was not part of a financial fraud investigation into Olmert’s affairs conducted by the state comptroller and that Elmaliach had never been questioned by the police about the loan.

“The harm to Mr. Olmert’s basic rights as a suspect and an accused were expressed in two ways,” his lawyers wrote: “Firstly, Mr. Lador conducted an interview about a standing procedure, knowing full well that the interview and its echoes will reach the ears of the lawyers hearing Mr.

Olmert’s case and that there is a probable possibility that they will affect the court.

“Secondly, Mr. Lador was interviewed about the ‘Holyland affair,’ an investigation that is waiting on his desk for a decision, and doing so, compromised his own discretion and added an improper consideration to his reckoning in the matter.”

The lawyers said it would be impossible for Lador to take back the things he said in the interview when deciding on how to proceed in the case. In the interview, Lador described the Holyland affair as the biggest corruption case in the state’s history.

Olmert’s lawyers asked that the court find Lador and Haaretz guilty of wrongdoing and order them to compensate Olmert with NIS 25,000 for injuring his right to a fair trial, NIS 25,000 for violating a statutory duty and NIS 100,000 for defamation.

The money, the lawyers said, would be donated to the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv.

The lawyers also asked that the court order a printed retraction of the story and the payment of Olmert’s lawyers’ fees.

On Sunday, before filing the lawsuit, Olmert gave Lador and Haaretz 48 hours to issue an apology.

Lador did not apologize, but on Monday, the State Attorney’s Office issued a response, saying that the fact that the loan was repaid was unknown to Lador, and pointing out that the said loan was not included in the fraud charges filed against the ex-prime minister. The response also defended Lador’s right to pass judgment on the notion that a public official held on to an undocumented $75,000 “loaned” to him by a businessman for 16 years.

The response also stated that the state was not aware that Olmert had paid back a second loan of $100,000 from the same source, which Olmert had neglected to disclose to the state comptroller.

In response to the lawsuit filed on Thursday, the State Attorney’s Office wrote, “This is a frivolous lawsuit filed for public relations purposes and proves once again the attempt to bully into submission any element that handles Mr. Olmert’s affairs, whether by complaints to the Bar Association, complaints to the attorney-general, attacks on the state comptroller and now a civil lawsuit.The prosecution will respond to the lawsuit in detail in court.”

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