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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his former office manager, Shula Zaken, petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday against the prosecution's decision to have a court depose American fundraiser Moshe Morris Talansky. The petition will be heard on Monday by a panel of three justices.

Attorneys for Olmert wrote, "Were it not a case involving the prime minister, the prosecution would not have considered seeking a deposition from Mr. Talanksy." Since it is not even clear what crimes their client is suspected of, they argued, there are no grounds for asking the court to hear testimony from Talansky now, and doing so would undermine Olmert's ability to cross-examine the witness effectively.

The premier's attorneys also accused the prosecution of speaking out of both sides of its mouth regarding Talansky: "Talansky is presented as a suspect who may be indicted for the offenses about which he is being asked to testify. However, despite his status as a suspect, no legal steps are being taken against Talansky to restrict his movements and ensure he appears before an Israeli court if and when a decision is made to try him."

The attorneys said the prosecution promised to allow Talansky to leave the country on or about May 21 without demanding any guarantees that he would return should an indictment be filed. On April 29, they continued, Talansky was questioned and released under restrictions after he posted bail, but only on May 5, the day after the request to depose him was submitted to the court, was an injunction issued to prevent him from leaving the country.

The lawyers argued that this can be explained in only two ways: either Talansky is not really suspected of crimes, but was labeled a suspect so that the prosecution could prevent him from leaving the country; or he is indeed a suspect, but the prosecution feels the existing restrictions are sufficient to ensure his return should he be indicted. But in the latter case, they continued, "how can it be that in order to justify the request for a deposition, Talansky was presented to the district court as a person whose prior testimony was necessary because he was likely to refuse to return to Israel to testify, and yet, as a suspect, the prosecution feels no fear that he would not return to Israel to stand trial?!"

Meanwhile, police sources said Talansky's deposition is liable to undermine the investigation, because Olmert's lawyers would have to be given the accumulated evidence in order to prepare their cross-examination, and that would help them determine what Olmert should say to avoid incriminating himself. The police are therefore expected to question Olmert again before the deposition.