Olmert Could Face New Evidence During Talansky and Rishon Tours Appeal

Revital Hovel
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Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrives at the Tel Aviv District Court March 31, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Revital Hovel

The state prosecutor is likely to request the introduction of new evidence in its appeal against the acquittal of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the so-called Talansky and Rishon Tours cases. The development is a consequence of a plea bargain with one of Olmert’s top aides in the Holyland trial.

Supreme Court President Justice Asher Grunis, who heads the five-justice panel hearing the appeal, would have to rule on whether to admit the testimony of Olmert’s former assistant Shula Zaken, which would in turn enable the introduction into evidence of appointment diaries that were not included in the original trial due to Zaken’s refusal to testify.

It is rare for new evidence to be introduced at this stage of an appeal, but a court has the authority to allow such a move “if it believes it necessary for justice to be done.” Since Zaken signed the plea bargain, a number of discussions have been held about the possibility of reopening the cases in the Supreme Court.

Much of the push to reopen the cases has come from Jerusalem District prosecutor Uri Korev, who prosecuted Olmert in the so-called Investments Center affair.

Zaken committed herself in the plea bargain “to fully cooperate with law enforcement authorities, including with regard to additional suspicions and charges, and to testify in full, as required,” in exchange for serving only 11 months in prison.

Prosecutors have been waiting for a final decision about the new information provided by Zaken, including audio recordings purporting to support suspicions of obstruction of justice and suborning a witness and which are said to explain Zaken’s decision to exercise her right to remain silent in the original trial, before deciding whether or not to submit a request for the introduction of the new evidence.

Prosecutors faced a similar dilemma in the Holyland trial. They did enter their request, but it was turned down by Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments regarding sentencing in the Holyland case on Monday.

The State Prosecutor’s Office is expected to ask that Olmert be given a prison sentence of three to six years plus a fine after being convicted of two counts of accepting bribes in the Holyland trial.

On Friday, the state requested to delay the arguments regarding Zaken’s sentence until all of the defendants have been sentenced.

The maximum sentence for the bribery offense of which Olmert was convicted in March is seven years, but so far the maximum sentence the courts have imposed is six years. Tel Aviv District Court Judge Rozen set the bar when he sentenced David Vanunu, a high-ranking Tax Authority official convicted of graft, to six years in prison. At that time, officials at the State Prosecutor’s Office presented cases in which defendants convicted of graft, including former minister Shlomo Benizri, had served four-year sentences.

But Rozen agreed to impose a harsher sentence on Vanunu: six years’ imprisonment for having received bribes amounting to NIS 300,000. 

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