Olmert Suing Lador, Haaretz for Libel Over Magazine Story

The libel accusation relates to Lador’s statement about a $75,000 loan Olmert received from businessman Joe Almaliah in the early 1990s

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday filed a NIS 150,000 libel suit against State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Haaretz, over things Lador said in an interview published in last Friday’s Haaretz Magazine.

In addition to libeling him, Olmert charged, the state prosecutor violated his right to due process by making inappropriate comments that could influence the outcome of both a pending trial and a pending police investigation.

olmert - Nir Keidar - October 12 2010
Nir Keidar

“Mr. Lador’s decision to be interviewed by Haaretz Magazine while legal proceedings in Mr. Olmert’s case were still pending was not made in good faith,” the suit charged. “Mr. Lador’s goal was to influence Mr. Olmert’s trial. In his statements in the interview, Mr. Lador intended to harm Mr. Olmert.”

The suit noted that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had recused himself from Olmert’s cases because he once served as Olmert’s lawyer, making Lador the de facto arbiter on all decisions made in the case.

“In a properly run prosecution, Mr. Lador would make do with running the criminal proceedings against Mr. Olmert and await the court’s verdict,” the suit said. “In a properly run prosecution, the state prosecutor would refrain from being interviewed at length in the media about a defendant while his trial was still in process, and while an investigation against the defendant on another matter was awaiting the state prosecutor’s decision ... In a properly run prosecution, the state prosecutor would have demonstrated an appropriate degree of distance and professionalism in dealing with the affairs of a defendant, any defendant, and allowed him to defend his innocence in court, instead of turning the legal process into an arena for media arm-wrestling. In a properly run prosecution, the state prosecutor would know how to admit his mistake and apologize for it.”

The suit accused Lador of crossing lines with regard to Olmert’s case.

“What was forbidden yesterday has become permissible,” the suit stated. “The inappropriate has become appropriate.

On the other hand, all professional, substantive criticism of the state prosecutor’s conduct is immediately portrayed by him as a war of ‘the sons of darkness against the sons of light.’ This is not how a properly run prosecution operates.”

Inappropriate interview

The suit claims the interview was especially inappropriate given Lador’s direct personal involvement in every stage of the proceedings against Olmert: He personally asked the court to approve a deposition by a key witness, American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, even before an indictment was filed; he personally questioned Talansky in court. In addition, he personally signed the existing indictments against Olmert; and he is personally slated to decide whether to indict Olmert in another case, involving alleged bribery in the construction of the Holyland luxury apartment complex in Jerusalem, where Olmert served as mayor for 10 years.

It will now be very hard for Lador not to charge Olmert in the Holyland case, even if the evidence is shaky, because to close the case after having spoken so harshly would expose him to criticism, the suit said.

The libel accusation relates to Lador’s statement about a $75,000 loan Olmert received from businessman Joe Almaliah in the early 1990s. Lador termed this an “extraordinarily scandalous story” and claimed that “to this day, the loan hasn’t been repaid.”

After the interview was published, Olmert claimed the loan had been repaid in July 2010 and demanded an apology from both Lador and Haaretz. In response, the Justice Ministry noted that the loan had not been repaid at the time the indictment was filed, and Lador had not known that it was repaid subsequently.

However, the ministry added, the fact that it was finally repaid last July is marginal compared to the fact that Olmert, a public figure, had previously failed to repay such a large loan from a businessman for so many years.

The suit said the interview was particularly astounding coming in the wake of former President Moshe Katsav’s rape trial. In that case, the High Court of Justice was very critical of the prosecution’s high-profile media strategy, and Justice Edmond Levy even urged it to do some soul-searching.

“Mr. Lador didn’t do any ‘soul-searching’ about his media conduct, nor did he in the least internalize the Supreme Court’s clear instructions on this matter,” the suit charged.

The Justice Ministry yesterday termed the suit “frivolous” and said that its purpose was to “intimidate” the prosecutors dealing with Olmert’s case.