Olmert requests hearing postponement

Former PM's lawyers urge delay to legal process, citing health, need for urgent medical treatment.

olmert sad 298.88 (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky)
olmert sad 298.88
(photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert wants to postpone his hearing before Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on the Rishon Tours affair for an indefinite period, his lawyers said in a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday. At the moment, the hearing is scheduled to be held on April 19 and April 27. The lawyers turned to the court after Mazuz rejected their request and said the hearing would be held on schedule as originally agreed by the two sides. Mazuz also said Olmert had asked for one postponement after another and, until now, the state had agreed to all of them. Olmert's lawyers also asked the court to issue an interim injunction barring Mazuz from holding the hearing before the court hands down a final ruling on their petition. Justice Salim Joubran ordered the state to reply to the request for an interim injunction by Wednesday at 11 a.m. The lawyers gave three reasons justifying the postponement. In the first place, they said, the state had not completed its investigation of alleged political appointments by Olmert in the Authority for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses. The hearing should not be held until the state completes this investigation, they said. Second, Olmert is due to fly to the US on April 13 for medical treatment. Although the details of his medical condition are classified, it is known that he is suffering from prostate cancer. Finally, the hearing should not be held until the lawyers have all the investigative material for all the affairs regarding which Olmert may face indictment, and only after the key witness in one of them, American businessman Morris Talansky, completes his pre-trial testimony in Jerusalem District Court, if the court rules that he must. The state wants to complete the testimony, which was suspended at Olmert's lawyers' request on July 21, 2008. Olmert's lawyers oppose the move. According to the petitioners, much has changed since Olmert's lawyers and the state agreed to hold the hearing regarding the Rishon Tours Affair in April. For one thing, Olmert is no longer prime minister. Therefore, there is no longer the same urgency in determining whether or not he is to be indicted as there would have been, since he would have been forced to resign had the state decided, after the hearing, to press charges against him while he was still in office. Secondly, Olmert had refused to take time off from his duties to look after his illness as long as he was prime minister. Now, the lawyers said, doctors have testified that he must be treated "without delay because of the dangers involved in putting it off any longer." The lawyers argued that they could not take part in a hearing when Olmert was far away and in hospital, and that because of his busy schedule while in office, they had not had time to prepare for the hearing. Third, since Olmert agreed to the date of the Rishon Tours hearing, Mazuz had announced he was considering indicting Olmert regarding two other affairs - Talansky and the Investment Center - and that the three affairs were linked and were all part of one issue. If that was the case, the lawyers maintained, the hearing should deal with all three affairs at once rather than piecemeal. There was no point in holding a separate hearing on Rishon Tours. Mazuz's office did not comment on the petition, but released two letters he had sent to Olmert's chief counsel, Eli Zohar, on Sunday and Monday, explaining why he had rejected the request. "Regarding Rishon Tours," wrote Mazuz, "you were told [about the intention of indicting Olmert conditional on the outcome of a hearing] on November 26, 2008, and the hearing was scheduled for April 19 and 27, in other words, five months down the line. This amount of time is exceptional for holding a hearing [it is usually two or three months] as we explained to you in our letter of December 12, 2008." Mazuz added that originally, the hearing was to have been held around the end of February. Afterwards, the lawyers requested a postponement because of Operation Cast Lead and the fact that the team had a new attorney. First, it was postponed to the end of March, then to the beginning of April and again, at the request of the lawyers, until after the Pessah holiday. Therefore, he would not agree to another postponement. Mazuz added that while the hearings regarding Rishon Tours, Talansky and the Investment Center would not be held as one, they would be conducted one after the other, within a short period of time. The lawyers had all the investigative material regarding Rishon Tours, and the bulk of the material regarding Talansky. The investigative material regarding the investigation of the Authority for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses was available to the lawyers, and was a relatively small file, he added.