Former PM Ehud Olmert outside a corruption trial hearing at a Jerusalem court, March 22, 2010
Former PM Ehud Olmert outside a corruption trial hearing at a Jerusalem court. Photo by Haaretz
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As his trial over a series of corruption scandals resumed on Thursday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert out at his accusers, calling the case against him "brutal persecution".
 
"What is going on here is organized persecution, a brutal, violent and merciless witch hunt that is entirely without precedent," Olmert told reporters outside the Jerusalem court where he is standing trial alongside his premiership-era bureau chief, Shula Zaken.
 
The trial was halted a month ago, when both emerged as possible suspects in a new corruption scandal over bribes allegedly paid to further the Holyland project, a luxury housing development in Jerusalem.
 
Last week, Zaken was arrested on her return to Israel from the United States. She was later released to house arrest, but police have yet to question Olmert on the new case.
 
Both were preparing to take the stand on Thursday as their trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust resumed.
 
"The campaign against me reached a peak last Sunday when a police officer claimed in court that Zaken transferred a million dollars in bribe money to me," Olmert said.
 
"If these claims are true, who is it that in three weeks no one has asked me, no one has questioned me or approached me? These claims are, to the best of my knowledge, baseless, they have no foundation and there is not a single fact to support them."
 
He added: "It is hard to comprehend how an officer can make such baseless claims in contravention to the basic principles of civil rights and the presumption of innocence that operate in a state of law."
 
Olmert also voiced anger at claims he brother, Yossi, who left Israel after serving a prison term over unpaid debts, had also taken bribes.
 
"Beyond the natural feelings of anger and insult and hurt, I wonder to myself just how far things can sink," he said.
 
Olmert and Zaken are charged with filing false reports to the state comptroller in three separate incidents, involving allegations of double-billing for overseas trips, nepotism the and the receipt of cash-filled envelopes from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talansky.
 
Zaken is also charged with illegally eavesdropping on Olmert's conversations.