Police decide not to question former PM Olmert over possible interference in Holyland probe
The police have decided not to investigate former prime minister Ehud Olmert over a meeting he had with two other suspects in the Holyland bribery affair.
On Tuesday Olmert was photographed talking with his former office manager, Shula Zaken, and the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Yehoshua Pollack, at former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri's daughter's wedding.
Earlier that day, Olmert had been questioned under caution in the case, which centers around alleged bribes paid to him and other government officials to advance the interests of real estate developers - particularly those behind the Holyland apartment complex in Jerusalem. Olmert was mayor of the city at that time. At the end of the session, Olmert promised the police that he would not make contact with any of the other suspects in the case.
The police decided not to open a new investigation against Olmert - or against Zaken or Pollack, who had made the same promise - as the meeting at the wedding was apparently a chance encounter that lasted only a few seconds. The police are therefore not viewing it as a violation of the suspects' pledges.
Still, when Zaken - who was under arrest at one point in this case - was released to house arrest, her lawyer asked the judge who approved the release whether Zaken was barred from even saying hello to Olmert, whom she would likely see a few days later in the Jerusalem District Court, where both are on trial on unrelated charges. The judge, Irit Weinberg-Nutovitz, responded that it would be better if Zaken refrained even from that.
"I assume the police know what they're doing," Retired judge Shelly Timan, who specialized in criminal cases, told Haaretz. "But I can tell you that in similar cases, when [an ordinary citizen] behaves in the same way, they do not defer to him and will bring him to court for having violated the terms of his release."
"From a normative standpoint," Timan added, "a public figure is expected to be an honorable man who will scrupulously fulfill his promises to the police."
Olmert's trial in the Jerusalem District Court is slated to resume today. The hearing will relate to only one of the three cases that the trial will ultimately cover - the one in which Olmert is accused of billing several nonprofit organizations for the same overseas flights and using the extra money to finance personal trips for himself and his family.
Today's witnesses will include representatives of some of these organizations, as well as Finance Ministry official Ilan Levin, who will testify about the rules government officials are supposed to follow on trips abroad.
Zaken is a co-defendant in all three cases. The other two cases involve Olmert's alleged receipt of cash-filled envelopes from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky and his alleged abuse of his power while industry and trade minister to help clients of a close friend, attorney Uri Messer, obtain government grants.
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