Hearings in three cases against Olmert canceled

Mazuz rejected former PM's request for 'objective, disinterested' arbiter; indictment may still follow.

olmert solemn 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert solemn 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
After months of postponements, including a hearing before the High Court of Justice, it is finally final: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not have a hearing regarding the allegations against him in the Rishon Tours, Talansky and Investment Center affairs. Raz Nazri, senior aide to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, wrote to Olmert's lawyers on Tuesday, "We will act without delay to complete the decision-making process on the different affairs in this file regarding which you have already been told that the attorney-general is considering filing an indictment." The hearings were scheduled to take place this month, beginning on August 14. Two days ago, Olmert's principal lawyer, Eli Zohar, informed Mazuz that "the dates that were scheduled for the hearings are canceled." The final act of the hearings saga began on July 13, when Mazuz informed Rachael Risby-Raz, who was Olmert's international affairs coordinator while he was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment, that he was indicting her for her role in the Rishon Tours affair. In that case, Olmert is suspected of double- and triple-billing the state and Jewish philanthropic organizations when he traveled abroad on behalf of more than one of them at the same time. The indictment against Risby-Raz stated that "she had fulfilled her role as a public servant according to the instructions of Mr. Olmert." In response, Zohar wrote to Mazuz that "the indictment against Risby-Raz proves like 100 witnesses that you are determined to indict Olmert regarding this affair and the purposelessness and uselessness of holding the hearing next month." He informed Mazuz that he would not show up for the hearing on the Rishon Tours affair, the first of the three scheduled hearings. On August 4, Zohar wrote again, asking Mazuz to disqualify himself from conducting the hearings on the Talansky and Investment Center affairs and to appoint instead "an objective and disinterested person." He added that "there was not a single person who would read the indictment against Risby-Raz and not know in advance the outcome of the hearing in Olmert's case. Once the attorney-general stated in an indictment to the court that Mr. Olmert took money fraudulently, he would have to have strength of character beyond that of mortal men to hear Mr. Olmert's claims with an open mind." Mazuz rejected Zohar's request. "There is no basis for your claims that there is any reason at all not to hold the hearing in your client's case before the attorney-general and the state attorney. We reject out of hand your request for a hearing by an "outside element." Two days later, Zohar canceled the other hearing dates. Mazuz interpreted the cancellation as meaning that Olmert's lawyer had given up his right to a hearing altogether. "Whether the decision to waive the hearing was based on conclusions that you reached after studying the investigation material or whether it was for some other reason, we have no cause to accept the excuse you have come up with to change your mind - that is, making baseless claims and casting personal aspersions on the heads of the prosecution." In response to the attorney-general's letter, Olmert's spokesperson, Amir Dan, wrote that "word games by the prosecution will not change the fact that Olmert did not stand a chance of receiving a fair hearing."