Police: PM not responding to request to question him

"We still have not had a reply from [Olmert's lawyers]," police spokesman confirms on Sunday.

olmert talansky (2) 224 (photo credit: Channel 10)
olmert talansky (2) 224
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Police are still waiting for a response from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyers to a request to interrogate the prime minister for a second time on allegations he illegally received hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York financier Morris Talansky. "We still have not had a reply from them," a police spokesman confirmed on Sunday. On Thursday, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz asked the prime minister's attorneys to set a time and a location for the next interrogation session with the National Fraud Unit. But Olmert might be doing his best to avoid a second round of questioning, former Israel Police chief investigator Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi told The Jerusalem Post. "Politicians wanted for questioning have a history of suddenly feeling unwell or otherwise being unavailable," Mizrahi said. "At this stage, Olmert's credibility is already low, and he may not care about the immediate results of delaying a questioning session with the police." Detectives from the National Fraud Unit are in a race against time to question Olmert, as they will soon be made to hand over the case material to the prime minister's lawyers. Olmert's lawyers intend to cross-examine Talansky during his court appearance next Sunday and say they need prior access to the material from the police investigation. That information would likely enable Olmert to better his defense, and detectives appear keen to interrogate the prime minister once more before they hand over the case file. The only distinction the letter of the law makes regarding the authority of the police to question ordinary citizens and members of the Knesset is that the police must obtain the permission of the Knesset speaker before it can question an MK. However, police do grant certain concessions to senior elected officials. For example, police question the most senior public officials - such as the president, the prime minister and Knesset members - in their homes or offices rather than at a police station, and are more flexible in scheduling a questioning session with them. In the case of a prime minister, for example, respect for the importance and dignity of the position and awareness that he is preoccupied with affairs of state prevents the police from exercising their prerogative to haul any citizen in for questioning. Thus, aside from exceptionally rare circumstances, such as the first questioning of the prime minister on May 2, at the beginning of the Talansky affair, when he was given 48 hours' notice, the police will ask the prime minister to set aside time to be interrogated. That was what happened in the present case. The Prime Minister's Office said that efforts were underway to find a time in Olmert's cramped schedule. Sources close to Olmert, meanwhile, termed as "scandalous" the manner in which the police were carrying on the investigation, creating an impression that Olmert was "a common criminal who was hiding a body." The whole atmosphere of "dire urgency" that has been created is "ridiculous," the sources said. According to criminal law expert Prof. Emmanuel Gross of the University of Haifa, if Olmert continues to avoid the police request and the police insist that they have good reasons for questioning Olmert quickly, the attorney-general has the authority to decide whether the prime minister or the police will prevail. It is not certain whether, if Olmert continues to ignore the police request, Mazuz will step in. However, in Thursday's letter asking Olmert to set aside time with the police for questioning, Mazuz informed Olmert that if he were questioned only after his lawyers saw the police evidence, his testimony would be regarded as "tainted" and would not have the same force as it would had he complied with the request. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.