Court Postpones Decision on Letting Zaken Testify Again

Judge postpones decision on whether to accept prosecution's request to allow Zaken to testify again and to introduce into evidence recordings of her conversations and meetings with Olmert that allegedly support these new suspicions against the former prime minister.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
Shula Zaken, left, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sept. 24, 2012.
Shula Zaken, left, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sept. 24, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

A Tel Aviv court announced Sunday that it would postpone until the following day a decision on whether to accede to the prosecution's request to allow former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief Shula Zaken to testify again in the Holyland case implicating her former boss.

A verdict on the case is expected on Monday, although it is not yet clear whether it will cover all of the defendants. None of the defendants will be arrested on Monday, the court said.

Prosecutors had hoped to examine Zaken again and to introduce into evidence recordings of her conversations and meetings with Olmert that allegedly support these new suspicions against the former prime minister.

The two sides in the trail were surprised by Justice David Rozen’s decision to postpone the decision and were trying to infer its meaning.

Jurists familiar with Rozen interpret his decision as “an attempt to keep everyone in the dark, leaving all options open. Either a decision will be given or the two sides will resume arguments.” Both sides assess that Justice Rozen is trying to prevent speculations on the meaning of his rejection of the Prosecutor’s request. The assessment was that if the judge rejects the State Prosecutor’s request and does not allow Zaken to testify, this will mean that he has decided to convict Olmert.

The accused and the Prosecution are preparing themselves for hearing the verdict tomorrow. Both sides believe that if the judge had wanted to split the decision or to hold a debate over the Prosecution’s request to bring Zaken to the stand he would have done so by now. Both sides assume that the judge has made his decision, but believe that announcing that decision on Sunday would have led people to jump to conclusions.

Olmert was expected to ask to submit exculpatory evidence; his lawyers have already threatened to call to the witness stand the Jerusalem businessmen from whom Zaken received illegal favors, in connection to the Israel Tax Authority case. Zaken was convicted in that trial.

If the Holyland case is reopened, Olmert’s defense team are expected to argue that Zaken is corrupt, that she has admitted taking bribes and is doing everything in her power to avoid a long prison term.

In a request submitted to the court on Thursday, prosecutors argued that Zaken’s new testimony, including her supporting evidence, should be heard in connection to the Holyland case even though it refers to alleged obstruction of justice offenses and not the bribery offenses with which Olmert is charged in the case. According to prosecutors, the new evidence gives a new perspective on the court testimony of both Olmert and Zaken in the case. The recordings may reveal why it was so important to Olmert that Zaken be barred from testifying against him in connection to the plea bargain reached with her a year ago, and rejected by Zaken at the last moment. Furthermore, the recordings could prove that Olmert pressured Zaken and reveal why she protected him so fiercely.

A decision to investigate new charges against Olmert would likely go forward as a separate case rather than an amendment of the indictment in the Holyland trial. The judge’s decision will take into consideration the verdict in the Holyland case: If Olmert is convicted of accepting bribes, the state will presumably be less insistent about issuing new charges against him. On the other hand, in the event of his acquittal on the bribery charges, a new indictment against Olmert would only reinforce his claims of persecution by the prosecution.

Prosecutors believe it is their duty to introduce Zaken’s new testimony and evidence, but if Rozen turns down their request they will not appeal the decision. In any event, they will retain the option to use the new materials offered by Zaken to draft a new indictment against Olmert

Zaken gave prosecutors numerous recordings of her conversations with Olmert over the past year. Associates of Olmert argue that the fact that she made the recordings shows that she did not sacrifice herself on his behalf and puts in doubt the depth of her loyalty to him. Zaken’s lawyers say she only made the recordings so that she could better remember the content of the conversations.

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