'Police bullied ‘fragile' Messer into false confession'

Close Olmert friend began ‘negotiating’ with investigators, looking for answers to satisfy them so they'd leave him alone, claims attorney Nevot Tel-Tzur.

ori messer low quality 311 (photo credit: Channel 10 )
ori messer low quality 311
(photo credit: Channel 10 )
Police investigators took advantage of attorney Uri Messer’s mental state to bully and threaten him into falsely admitting he was safeguarding illegal funds that former prime minister Ehud Olmert had received from US businessman Moshe Talansky, Olmert’s lawyer charged in the Jerusalem District Court this week.
During the hearing, attorney Nevot Tel-Tzur asked police investigator Ch.-Supt. Lior Reiss whether he knew that Messer had tried to commit suicide while under investigation in the Investment Center affair. Reiss replied that he had heard rumors to that effect, but did not know if they were true.
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Tel-Tzur also accused Reiss, who was a member of the police team appointed to investigate the Talansky affair, of refusing to postpone the investigation even though he had been aware of Messer’s mental state.
Monday’s hearing was the first after proceedings were suspended for six weeks because of the prosecutors’ strike.
Messer, who was a close friend of Olmert for many years, is one of the key witnesses for the prosecution in the state’s charges regarding the Talansky and Investment Center affairs – namely that the former prime minister obtained something by deceit in aggravated circumstances and committed fraud and breach of trust.
Although Messer has not yet testified in court, he is believed to have told police that Olmert’s bureau chief, Shula Zaken, handed over to him for safekeeping large sums of money that Talansky had given her boss. Messer reportedly kept the money in a safe, first in his office and later in a bank.
But during cross-examination, Tel- Tzur charged that Reiss and the other police investigators had frightened and bullied Messer into making the allegedly false accusation against Olmert. According to the transcript of Messer’s interrogation, which Tel- Tzur read aloud in the courtroom, Reiss and the other investigators repeatedly asked Messer whether he knew where the money had come from, and he repeatedly said, “No.”
The policemen yelled at Messer and threatened to set up face-to-face confrontations with Talansky and Olmert, Tel-Tzur said.
“You knew Messer was afraid of this,” he told Reiss.
In order to put a stop to the pressure, Messer began to “negotiate” with the investigators, Tel-Tzur continued, quoting the following question that Messer had asked as proof that he wanted to satisfy the police so they would leave him alone.
“Will you be satisfied if I say that from conversations with Talansky, I was able to understand that money he gave to Shula was given to me to hold?” Messer was quoted as asking them.
Tel-Tzur also accused Reiss of using “interrogation tricks” to frighten Messer into making statements that were not true. For example, the investigators told Messer that Talansky had already admitted that he had given Zaken money that was transmitted to him. In truth, continued Tel-Tzur, Talansky had not told police this until after this meeting between Messer and the investigation team. In another case, the interrogators promised Messer that what he was about to tell them would be off the record, when in fact, the entire interrogation was being taped.
“Do you think this was proper?” Tel-Tzur asked Reiss.
Reiss replied that these were standard interrogation devices.
“Everything we did was legitimate,” he told Olmert’s lawyer.
Tel-Tzur also charged that at the beginning of at least two interrogations in May, the police had asked Messer how he was feeling, a clear indication that they knew he was unwell. However, they did not consider postponing the interrogation.
During the fourth interrogation on May 19, Tel-Tzur added, the police began to pressure Messer into telling them he knew the money given him by Zaken belonged to Olmert.