Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict 370.
(photo credit: Emile Solomon/ Haaretz)
The Justice Ministry made it clear on Wednesday evening that the prosecution’s
position on the Holyland case regarding former prime minister Ehud Olmert would
not change, despite criticisms after his dramatic exoneration on unrelated
corruption charges a day earlier.
A ministry representative said the
prosecution would not reconsider the Holyland indictment, “except for updating
it, as is conducted routinely in all cases.”
“In contrast to erroneous
reports, yesterday’s verdict is irrelevant to the Holyland affair,” the ministry
The comments appeared slightly at odds with remarks made on
Wednesday morning by Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri, who told Army Radio that
the prosecution would “consider how to deal with the second indictment against
[Olmert],” prompting speculation that the State Attorney’s Office may change its
position on the case.
“I am convinced that whoever is dealing with [the
Holyland case] will do his duty as an attorney, and check whether there are any
consequences,” Nizri said, adding that this was “an obligation with regard to all cases.”
been charged alongside 15 others – including his former bureau chief Shula Zaken
– over the Holyland affair, in which real estate developers allegedly paid tens
of millions of shekels to public employees and elected officials to advance the
Holyland project in Jerusalem, including by shortening planning times, smoothing
over planning objections, rezoning land, granting tax breaks and increasing the
permitted amount of construction.
The former prime minister’s press
spokesman, Amir Dan, has called for the prosecution to reconsider its position
regarding Holyland, particularly in the light of the court ruling on the
Talansky affair. Dan argued that the state witness in the Holyland case, known
only as “S.D.,” was unreliable, as was US businessman Morris
“The court gave a very clear statement about what happens when
the prosecution relies on a central witness who lied,” Dan said of the Talansky
He added: “It is vital that the prosecution learn a lesson and
that it internalizes the court’s message. In the Holyland case there is a
witness who lied so many times that compared to him Talansky is a
In Tuesday’s ruling on the Talansky case, Judges Moussia Arad,
Moshe Sobel and Jacob Zaban wrote that the businessman had been a “controversial
“Part of his testimony proved correct, but other things [he
said] are not correct and even untrue. Some of his testimony was mistaken,
confused and sometimes driven by concerns, interests, forgetting and sophistry,”
the judges wrote.
As the prosecution begins studying Tuesday’s rulings in
earnest, it must also consider whether it will appeal to the Supreme Court the
decision to acquit Olmert on the Rishon Tours and Talansky
Olmert’s lawyer attorney Eli Zohar said on Tuesday that it would
be “clearly inappropriate” for the prosecution to appeal.
will also now consider what penalty to ask that judges impose on Olmert when the
court convenes to hear sentencing arguments on September 5.
prime minister was found guilty of breach of trust over the Investment Center
affair, which centered on allegations that he granted illegal favors to his
former law partner, Uri Messer, during his tenure as minister of trade, labor
In Tuesdays’ ruling, the judges wrote of the Investment
Center affair: “We cannot overstate the severity of the damage caused to public
confidence in public service.”
The court will likely pass sentence
sometime after the September hearing, and its ruling will decide Olmert’s
The Penal Code stipulates that the maximum sentence for
breach of trust is three years in prison, but experts have said that the
prosecution is unlikely to ask the court to impose jail time on
Zohar told reporters on Tuesday that there was no legal precedent
for the court to hand down a prison sentence for such a conviction.
prosecution could, however, ask the court to rule that the offense Olmert was
convicted of constitutes moral turpitude. If the court agrees to that request,
it will bar Olmert from returning to the Knesset for seven years.
the court ruling on Tuesday, Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel said the
breach of trust conviction was serious and constituted moral turpitude, whereas
Olmert’s attorneys said it amounted more to an ethical breach and not a criminal