Holyland Affair: Zaken tells court she needs lawyer

During Tel Aviv District Court hearing, Ehud Olmert's aide says she does not have an attorney yet.

Shula Zaken 390 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shula Zaken 390
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a hearing in the Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday over the Holyland Affair, former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s aide Shula Zaken told the court that she had not yet appointed a defense lawyer.
Zaken, who was Olmert’s bureau chief during his term as mayor of Jerusalem and later during his stint as finance minister, was one of 13 individuals indicted over the Holyland real estate scandal, considered one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s history. She is charged with receiving bribes in connection with the affair.
Last month, Zaken notably did not attend an arraignment hearing, and her thenlawyer Micha Pettman – who is representing Zaken in her other trials – dubbed her a “full-time defendant for the past four years.”
On Wednesday, however, Zaken said Pettman was no longer representing her because she could not afford to pay for a lawyer.
“Your Honor, I want to apologize for not coming to the last hearing,” Zaken said, asking the court for permission to have until June to find an attorney and commence the trial, due to her personal circumstances.
“I am a mother,” she explained to Judge David Rozen. “I have a child who’s got his bar mitzva coming up in two-and-a-half months.
That boy was seven-years-old when the police came at six in the morning to arrest his mom.
I’ve been in court three times a week from morning until night. I would like to ask for the opportunity to be allowed to finish with the bar mitzva.”
Judge Rozen allowed Zaken extra time to appoint legal counsel, ordering her to report to the court by March 25. He said Zaken would not be permitted to represent herself in the trial, and if she could not afford her own attorney, she would be provided with a public defender.
Rozen added that the court would keep to its prearranged schedule for the trial, however, because of the large number of defendants. The next hearing is scheduled for July 1 at 8.30 a.m.
Zaken is also indicted alongside Olmert in the former prime minister’s corruption trial in the Jerusalem District Court. She denies the charges against her.
Two weeks ago, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Zaken of fraud and breach of trust in the Tax Authority Affair, finding that she abused her position as Olmert’s bureau chief in the Finance Ministry to advance her brother’s personal interests.
Outside the courtroom, Zaken told reporters that she still has confidence in the courts, but not in “those who brought this whole issue to court,” referring to the state attorney’s office. Zaken added that she was not angry with Olmert.
Olmert’s former bureau chief also said she had not taken bribes, but that the state’s witness in the affair – whose identity is subject to a gag order and is known only as S.D. – had done so. Zaken accused state prosecutors of “publicly bribing the state witness.”
Indicted alongside Zaken and Olmert in the Holyland Affair are former Jerusalem mayor and chairman of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee Uri Lupolianski, former Jerusalem deputy mayor and city councilman Eliezer Simhayoff, city councilman Avraham Finer, and former city engineer Uri Sheetrit. Also charged include businessman Hillel Cherny, who owned land rights to the Holyland project, former Polar Investments CEO Avigdor Kelner, who owns a stake in Holyland, Polar Investments manager Amnon Safran, Shimon Galon, the CEO of Kardan Real Estate, which also owned a stake in the project; and Jerusalem entrepreneur Meir Rabin.
In addition to the 13 defendants, three companies are also named on the indictment: Holyland Tayerut Ltd., which is held by Polar Investments, Holyland Park Ltd.
and Holyland Leisure Services Ltd., for which Cherny serves as director. Former chairman of Bank Hapoalim and Israel Salt Industries Dan Dankner and former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov Efrati are also charged with giving and receiving bribes relating to rezoning of salt flats in Atlit and Eilat.