Mazuz: Ruling on Olmert probe unlikely in next few weeks
Key witness Talansky says leaving Israel soon, limiting time for testimony in investigation against PM.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Sunday said he doubted a decision could be reached in the near future on the ongoing corruption probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"I am not certain that in the coming weeks we will make a legal decision, this is an unrealistic attitude," Mazuz told Channel Two's Ilana Dayan in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
In reference to the struggle against governmental corruption, Mazuz stated that the public is currently undergoing a painful process of cleansing, "Which in my view," he stated, "will certainly bring about a cleaner reality."
"There is no reality that is completely clean," Mazuz said, adding that he already sees a change in the areas in which the legal establishment has focused its activities. "I see that in these fields there has clearly been quite a significant change. I hope that in the areas that feed the phenomena of governmental corruption, that there will also be influence, and a drop in the curve."
Earlier Sunday, Morris (Moshe) Talansky, a key witness in the ongoing criminal probe against Olmert, informed the High Court of Justice that he is prepared to stay in Israel only until late Monday, May 26, thus limiting the time he can testify before investigators.
Talansky, a U.S. businessman and former fundraiser for the prime minister, is meant to give preliminary testimony on May 25 - if the High Court rejects a petition by Olmert and his former office chief Shula Zaken against Talansky's early disposition.
The witness' departure on May 26 would only allow, therefore, two days for the testimony.
In his announcement, Talansky's attorneys clarified that he does not agree to a further extension of his stay.
"A further extension such as this will constitute a sever blow, unjustified, disproportionate and which goes beyond the necessary [requirements] of a third party and his rights," the attorneys wrote.
Talanksy is central to suspicions that the prime minister received illegal campaign contributions.
Talansky said he plans to return to Israel a few days before the marriage of his grandson, set for June 11, and again for the Bar Mitzvah of another grandson on July 11.
His announcement came as the state prosecution argued Sunday that there was a reasonable chance that after departing, Talansky would not return to Israel to give testimony.
Talansky's attorneys clarified in their response that their client, a U.S. citizen, has a strong connection to Israel. "Neither an investigation, nor a trial, or publications or even discomfort of every kind there is will motivate him to cut his ties with the state in which he sees his home and to which he is connected in every strand of his soul."
"It is exactly this deep spiritual and emotional connection between him and the state which will cause him to want to return to Israel and answer every question he is asked, within the framework of an investigation or a trial," the attorneys wrote.
Earlier Sunday, the state prosecution stressed the necessity of hearing preliminary testimony from Talansky in the investigation, charging that he may not wish to return to Israel to testify at a later date.
The prosecution stated this in a response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by Olmert and his former office chief Shula Zaken against the preliminary deposition. The court will hold a hearing on the matter on Monday.
Talasnky's fears, the prosecution emphasized, stemmed from his assumption that arrival in Israel as a prosecution witness in a criminal case against Olmert would cause him considerable discomfort, since this would entail testifying against a person with whom he has maintained positive contacts for some 15 years.
"There is a reasonable fear that the witness will be deterred from this, partly due to the fears which accompany his testimony, and the fact that this is testimony against a prime minister, with all the evidence bound up in that," the prosecution stated.
The prosecution further stated that within the framework of the probe, Talansky himself is suspected of having committing violations - something which could also influence his willingness to return to Israel. They added that it is a mistake to view Talansky's preparedness to testify in the future in Israel as final, as Olmert and Zaken's attorneys seek to have it perceived.
With reference to the prime minister's petition, the prosecution argued that Olmert had no right to challenge a decision by the Jerusalem District Court on the early deposition of Talansky.
The Jerusalem court has ruled that there is a reasonable chance that Talansky will not desire to return to Israel to testify if an indictment is filed against the prime minister.
Monday's hearing on the petition will take place before justices Eliezer Rivlin, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran.
PM aides slam 'strange' police request for new interview
Meanwhile, police investigators are still uncertain whether they will be able to interview Olmert in the coming days in connection with the probe, which centers on suspicions he received illegal campaign contributions.
In reference to the interview with Olmert, sources close to the prime minister lashed out at the conduct of the investigation, describing the police request as "strange."
The commander of the National Fraud Investigations Unit, Shlomi Ayalon, contacted Olmert's attorneys Thursday with a request for an interview as soon as possible.
Sources involved in the investigation said Saturday they expected such a meeting would be held soon, possibly Sunday or Monday.
But at the Prime Minister's Bureau, as well as among members of his legal counsel, there was surprise at the rush for another interview.
Olmert was interviewed by investigators for the first time two weeks ago Friday, when all details of the investigation were under a strict, court-ordered gag order.
According to the sources close to Olmert, the prosecution has asked the prime minister's lawyers to take material linked to the investigation, but the attorneys refused because of the pending petition before the High Court of Justice regarding Talansky's early deposition.
"We think that it is crazy and inappropriate to take away the rights of the prime minister and to slander him publicly even before the investigative and prosecuting authorities have a full picture," a source said.
However, the Prime Minister's Bureau stated that following the police request, an effort will be made to find an appropriate time for an interview in the coming days.
The police investigators are keen to interview Olmert before Talansky offers his early deposition. Talansky is expected to give his deposition next Sunday.
Law enforcement sources said in recent days that their aim is to "lock" Olmert on one version of events before Talansky gives his public deposition.
Investigators are concerned that if Olmert is not interviewed before Talansky's deposition, the PM's version of the affair may be "doctored" to avoid his being incriminated in the case.
The investigators are planning to provide Olmert's lawyers with the material they have so far collected, so that his defense team will be able to cross-examine Talansky in court.
But sources involved in the investigation said that the prosecution's decision to seek an early deposition from Talansky will throw the entire system into a spin, because the defense team will seek the material from the investigation before Talansky offers his deposition next Sunday.
The defense attorneys are unwilling to accept only basic information collected by investigators, and not the full case file.
Sources close to Olmert described the police handling of the case as "despicable. They are playing dirty games and are treating Olmert as the lowest of criminals."