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The Jerusalem District Court yesterday rejected the prosecution's request to postpone the evidentiary stage of the trial of former prime minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges.

The State Prosecutor's Office had requested delaying witnesses' taking the stand for three months after the lead prosecutor in the case, Uri Corb, took a temporary leave of absence.

Corb was forced to step down Sunday after Yedioth Ahronoth published derogatory comments he had made to students about judges and the legal system, in which he reportedly called judges "jackasses." Sources at the Civil Service Commission said earlier in the week that Corb faces a disciplinary investigation that could last up to a month and could result in his dismissal. The evidentiary stage was scheduled to start on Monday, and will now begin February 24.

In its ruling, the court said that changing the timetable of the trial would harm the both the court and the public interest.

The trial will now proceed at a slower pace, however, and the court will initially hear testimony once a week on Thursdays, rather than three times weekly as planned for three weeks. This will increase to twice a week after the first three weeks, with the original schedule of testimony three times a week resuming on April 6.

Olmert's defense team initially opposed the prosecution's attempt to force a delay but later dropped its objection, leaving the decision to the judges.

Olmert, 63, is accused of fraud and accepting bribes in three cases while he was mayor of Jerusalem and later a cabinet minister. The charges include accepted cash envelopes from American businessman Morris Talansky, illegally double-billing charities and a ministry for travel expenses and granting personal favors to his old law partner, Uri Messer.

It seems the judge heading the tribunal hearing the case, Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad, had little choice in denying the postponement.

She recently led a committee that recommended a list of ways to prevent drawing out judicial proceedings. New regulations on postponements were published in January, which were criticized by lawyers for being too inflexible.

The new rules allow only limited, and exceptional, reasons for postponing an already scheduled court session.