Olmert lawyers: Ex-PM did not meet with Duchner

Defense attorneys campaign to have state drop all Holyland charges because Olmert was abroad during time of meeting.

The Holyland Tower in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Holyland Tower in Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was in the US at the time the state’s main witness in the Holyland trial, Shmuel Duchner, said the two met in Jerusalem and Olmert asked him for a bribe, according to a statement by Olmert’s legal team on Tuesday.
The bribe involved Duchner giving Olmert’s brother, Yossi, NIS 500,000. If true, the contradiction would be compounded by the fact that the evidence Olmert is presenting is taken from the state’s case against him in the Rishon Tours Affair, important evidence which it may have overlooked.
The Holyland trial is a case against Olmert and fifteen other defendants for bribery and fraud relating to smoothing over legal and zoning violations for the Holyland project in Jerusalem.
Olmert’s legal team took the unusual step of releasing the evidence to the press prior to even presenting it in court.
Usually, lawyers prefer to surprise witnesses in court with such evidence before making it public.
However, since Duchner – known as S.D. under a previous gag order – cannot be surprised, having died on Friday from chronic health issues, and the defense attorneys are campaigning to pressure the state into dropping the charges against their clients, they made the evidence public.
In past hearings, Duchner had testified and presented his notes showing that he had met with Olmert on October 3, 2002, and Olmert had asked for the bribe to help his brother, who was in serious debt.
Duchner had even been pressed about whether he was sure about the date of the meeting – and he vehemently stuck to his story.
However, in the state’s case against Olmert in the Rishon Tours Affair, part of the Jerusalem corruption trial, the state had argued that Olmert double-billed a ticket to fly to the US on October 1, 2002, in the amount of $5,658.
In addition to this claim and the evidence the state presented regarding the flight, Olmert’s defense team has an official document showing Olmert did not return to Israel until October 5, 2002.
If correct, the evidence would prove that Olmert and Duchner could not have met on October 3, 2002, and according to the defense, would also prove that Duchner made up the meeting and wrote false notes to himself to support his false story.
It is noteworthy that under questioning, Duchner admitted that the document he gave the state was a photocopy and not an original.
That does not confirm the document was falsified, but it does raise some questions in and of itself about the document’s veracity.
Amir Dan, Olmert’s spokesman, slammed the prosecution, saying the evidence “proves the lack of seriousness with which the prosecution collected its evidence, that they did not even check details that were in their hands and were known to them.”
Dan added that this evidence was just another example of “lying and falsifications by the state’s witness exposed in the court proceeding.”
The state did not respond, generally preferring to respond to such issues only in court.