Messer 'mysteriously' remanded

Olmert former confidant held in Holyland scandal investigation.

HOLYLAND 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Uri Messer, a former confidant of Ehud Olmert, was remanded in custodyfor another five days on Sunday by Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s CourtJudge Avraham Haiman, who thereby complied with a request by the IsraelPolice’s National Fraud Squad.
At the end of a stormy and prolonged remand hearing, Haiman ruled thatMesser’s conduct during a police interrogation a few hours before thecourt hearing “spoke for itself,” and formed a “concrete” basis forpolice suspicions that Messer would pervert the course of justice if hewere released to house arrest.
The National Fraud Squad said “new evidence” gathered on Sunday provedthat Messer could not be released to house arrest, and presented thecase material in a secret dossier to Haiman. Fraud investigators hadoffered to release Messer to house arrest for 10 days, but retractedthe offer in light of the mysterious incident in the interrogation room.
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Messer’s attorney, Shimon Dolan, said the incident was little more thana misunderstanding by police of a joke made by his client. Messerapparently had jotted down a note during his interrogation, which mayhave contributed to the police’s decision to retract its offer of housearrest.
Messer is suspected of transferring hundreds of thousands of shekels inbribes to senior public officials on behalf of businessmen seekingfavors related to real estate projects, including the Holylandresidential development in Jerusalem, the Tzuk Menara land developmentplan in the Galilee and projects by the Zera company.
During the remand hearing Dolan asked the police representative incourt whether its custody request was linked to a desire to “keepMesser behind bars while you wait for someone to return from abroad toquestion him,” referring to ex-prime minister Olmert. The policerepresentative replied by referring to the secret dossier.
Dolan also asked whether the police’s investigation strategy was linkedto the ongoing trial against Olmert. In his decision, Haiman ruled thatthere was no connection.
Dolan argued that Messer’s role in the Holyland investigation was marginal, and not central as police had attempted to portray.
Following the hearing, Dolan told reporters that the police conduct was“very strange,” adding that an offer to release his client to housearrest was retracted “just two to three hours after it was made.”
Earlier, Time magazine citedunnamed officials as saying that police would arrest Olmert as soon ashe landed at Ben-Gurion Airport from his trip abroad. Police refused toconfirm or deny the reports.
A partial gag order is in effect, prohibiting publication of many details of the investigation.