Potential breakthrough for Olmert in Holyland case

Olmert's attorneys question state witness on page of diary missing former PM's name.

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 may have received a big break on Sunday in his defense in the Holyland trial, as his attorney, Roi Belcher, revealed a section of the primary state witness’s diary, including a list of people who received bribes that failed to mention Olmert’s name.
If Judge David Rozen finds the absence of Olmert’s name from the list of individuals who received bribes in the diary of “S.D.” – as he is referred to under a gag order – as convincing evidence that the witness did not bribe Olmert, the latter could be found innocent of all charges.
Olmert’s public relations team practically celebrated the event, releasing a statement which said, “A list of the supposed ‘bribees’ [those being bribed], prepared by S.D. for himself in his personal diary proves it: Olmert did not receive a bribe.”
The event’s significance was highlighted by Olmert’s attendance at the trial, having mostly sent only his lawyers and not having appeared in court in months.
The series of questions was also a classic set-up.
First, Belcher asked S.D. who the most important of the people he had bribed was – to which S.D. responded that it was Olmert.
Next, Belcher asked S.D., if he made a list of those who accepted bribes, who would be at the top? To which S.D.
responded that the most important person he had bribed was Olmert. Next, Belcher got S.D. to say that, without question, he had not made such a list.
Belcher then caught S.D. blindsided, unveiling the diary in dramatic fashion, a diary which S.D.
apparently did not recall, but did not deny was in his handwriting, and which the state had not known existed.
Despite the examination’s findings, S.D. continued to claim that the former prime minister was the “central bribe taker” in the case.
In a section of the diary, S.D. had written a list of “payments made for ‘Holyland,’” followed by a list of names that did not include Olmert’s.
Belcher continually questioned S.D. regarding the fact that Olmert’s name was missing from the list. The witness admitted in response that he had omitted Olmert’s name, but he said he could not remember, or explain, why.
On S.D.’s list of “bribe takers,” the names of other defendants in the case, and individuals connected to Olmert who allegedly took bribes – Shula Zaken and Yossi Olmert – were also missing.
Although S.D. initially said he had not written such a list, he later said, “I don’t remember that list, if I wrote it, or where it was taken from,” while admitting that the list was in his handwriting.
S.D. also lashed out at the defense, and essentially accused it, or some third party, of stealing his diary from an office space he had previously inhabited.
However, S.D. appeared bewildered when explaining how the defense had acquired the diary, or who had “stolen” it, or provided it to the defense.
According to Belcher, the list was written in 2008 when S.D. met with his attorneys, Amnon Yitzhak and Ilan Sobel, in a separate civil litigation, to prepare his statement against the entrepreneur in charge of the Holyland project, Hillel Cherny.
This could also give greater weight to the diary, proving that Olmert did not receive bribes, as it is from a time period before the criminal litigation had started – a period which many legal practitioners consider a purer test of what a person truly thought.
Because S.D.’s conversations with Yitzhak and Sobel were in the context of an attorney-client relationship, S.D. has attorney-client privilege to refuse to answer any questions about them, and can also prevent anyone from questioning Yitzhak and Sobel about those discussions.
Belcher continued to ask S.D. to waive his attorney-client privilege on the issue.
“I am going to claim that you [S.D.] provided false witness in this case, under the privilege of your attorneys,” Belcher asserted.
S.D. stated in response, “Do what you like, but I will not give up on my privilege.”
When Belcher tried another indirect way to get S.D. to describe his discussions of the list, and of Olmert’s involvement in the Holyland project, he responded, “You cannot call me Talansky,” implying he would not be fooled indirectly into contradicting himself and waiving privileges like Morris Talansky, the state’s star witness in the Talansky Affair in the Jerusalem corruption trial against Olmert.
One reason why Belcher pressed the issue was that S.D. himself has admitted that the original story he provided to the authorities regarding the Holyland project was embellished and contained significant false material.
Belcher said he w
anted to better understand S.D.’s evolution from his partly false story to what he says is his current true story.
To that extent, Belcher wondered why Olmert was not mentioned at the top of the list of individuals who accepted bribes that S.D. presented to his lawyers.
“Is there a chance that in conversations with your attorneys you did not mention Olmert first?” S.D. responded that he had no memory of such a conversation and that “when Olmert waives his privilege, I will do so as well.”
Olmert’s attorney believes that the list in S.D.’s diary could represent a substantial breakthrough for Olmert’s defense of the case against him.