Olmert Ruling Is Embarrassing for Israel's State Prosecutor

Israeli officials calling for investigation into State Prosecutor’s office after indictments against former PM fail to result in conviction.

Tuesday's ruling on three cases of corruption involving former prime minister Ehud Olmert came as a complete surprise to the prosecution, in light of the fact that senior State Prosecutor’s office officials such as State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, and former Attorney General Manny Mazoz, were involved in the case. The two officials stood firmly against Olmert, and with the accusations made against him in indictments.

In an internal email among State Prosecutor officials sent in August 2008, Lador explained the reasons he decided to appear personally at Morris Talansky’s preliminary testimony. In the email, Lador hinted at assuming personal responsibility should the move fail.

“As you know, I’ve decided to personally appear at these proceedings, (the preliminary testimony) and I made the decision principally because of the ethical issues involved in this case make it necessary for me, in my current position, to appear at the courthouse.  I will also bear responsibility for any possible outcome that can arise from this unique move,” wrote Lador.

Following Tuesday morning’s acquittal of Olmert on almost all of the primary charges, voices within the public and legal sectors are calling for an investigation of the State Prosecutor, and possibly even the courts, to see who bears personal responsibility for the decision made by law enforcement officials to formally indict Olmert.

MK Uri Ariel, chairperson of the Knesset State Control Committee, labeled the acquittal as “Yom Kippur for the prosecutors, which attests to their severe failure.”

“There is no reason not to create an external, independent body of review for the State Prosecutor’s office, which can investigate and check the procedures by which decisions are made,” said Ariel.

Haifa University Professor Emanuel Gross, an expert on criminal law, warns against jumping to conclusions about the State Attorney at this point.

Speaking to Haaretz, Gross said that it is difficult at this point to advise the State Attorney on how to act. “This is a failure for the State Prosecutor. Even if it is hard to determine if the acquittal could have been foreseen or prevented, or if the evidence the State Prosecutor’s office did in fact justify issuing an indictment, it is important to remember that there is no other body that can do the job of the State Prosecutor, and there is no need to be quick in tying the hands of those who do the work,” said Gross.

“I am not under the impression that the court ruling attests to a severe dysfunction. Although acquittals can happen from time to time, it is important to remember that this is not a regular case, but rather an indictment against a prime minister in office, and it remains to be seen if the State Prosecutor did their homework above and beyond the norm,” continued Gross.

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