Justice Min. mulls closing Olmert Holyland case

Official said at Israel Bar meeting that prosecutors are considering Olmert's request to close corruption case.

Ehud Olmert after verdict 370 (photo credit: Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
Ehud Olmert after verdict 370
(photo credit: Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
Prosecutors are considering a recent request by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to close the Holyland case against him, outgoing deputy State Attorney-General Shuki Lemberger said late Thursday night.
Lemberger made his comments at an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, with reports about the highly significant comments surfacing Friday. They were the first and most forthright public remarks by the state prosecution since the sudden and dramatic death of its main witness, Shmuel Duchner, in early March.
Olmert’s legal team and many commentators called for the case against him to be closed immediately after Duchner’s death, saying that it could not go forward without the main witness.
To some extent, Lemberger’s remarks were still cryptic.
“We need to check at every point of the legal process if there is a reasonable chance for a conviction,” he said, adding that, “the test will be simple. If there is a chance for a conviction despite the death of the witness, we’ll move forward with the case.
If we reach the conclusion that there is no reasonable chance, we won’t continue with the case.”
While this statement was similar to the prosecution’s public comments immediately after Duchner’s death, the overall thrust was less bold and confrontational than the original statements, which had indicated an almost zealous readiness for seeing the case through to the end.
Media reports over the weekend speculated about the significance of such a high level official publicly showing signs of doubt in the case.
Most reports estimated that the prosecution would decide whether to continue, or to close the case, sometime after Olmert’s brother, Yossi, testifies from the United States by video conference in approximately three weeks. It is also possible that the decision could be made even sooner or may wait to watch developments of the state’s appeal later this summer of Olmert’s overall acquittal in a separate Jerusalem corruption case.
Yossi Olmert is one of the remaining key prosecution witnesses against his brother, but it is unclear how much damaging information the prosecution will be able to get against Ehud.
Even if the case against Olmert is eventually closed, it is likely that the prosecution of at least half of the Holyland case’s 16 defendants will continue, since Duchner had finished testifying against about half of them before his death.