Court to Hear Olmert's Slander Suit Against Lador

Former PM suing state prosecutor over comments in Haaretz interview.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court refused over the weekend to throw out the slander suit filed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert against state prosecutor Moshe Lador and Haaretz.

The allegedly slanderous comments, which contained references to the former prime minister's trial, were made by Lador in an interview he gave at the height of the investigation into Olmert and the so-called Holyland affair. Lador, who asked the court to throw out the lawsuit, argued that his comments were permissible under the Anti-Defamation Law.

Moshe Lador
Yanai Yehiel

Magistrate Riva Niv decided that Lador's claims required factual and legal investigation and could not be decided upon before a full discussion of the lawsuit.

Olmert filed an NIS 150,000 lawsuit against Lador and Haaretz in February, claiming that through the interview, Lador tried to influence the legal proceedings against him and thus undermined his right for due process. Lador denied the claims and argued he only commented on issues in which the prosecution was involved at the time, in an interview marking three years in office.

He also argued that the interview was a legal publication according to the Anti-Defamation Law, which stipulates in one of its clauses that comments made by a person with a judicial or quasi-judicial authority when listening to a hearing or making a decision will not be subject to a slander suit.

However, Niv ruled that even if it was found that the state prosecutor had a "quasi-judicial authority," the lawsuit did not concern a formal decision he had taken in the framework of his duties, as specified by the law, but related instead to comments made in an interview to the press.

Niv ruled that the argument that the immunity claimed by Lador applied to an official and all his comments made as part of his work necessitated further legal and factual investigation. She said she was not able to decide on the matter at such an early stage.

Niv said that the question of whether or not Lador was allowed to grant the interview to Haaretz would need to be investigated and decided upon legally, after hearing all the evidence.

Meanwhile, the first hearing related to Olmert's political appointments affair took place yesterday, with deputy state prosecutor Yehoshua Lamberger and the head of the economic department at the state prosecutor's office, Avia Alef, in attendance. Olmert's media consultant, Amir Dan, said after the hearing that the prosecution's decision to hold the meeting today, at the height of the defense arguments in Olmert's other trial, was inappropriate. He said it could damage Olmert's ability to defend himself in the other trial, and noted he thought it was more appropriate for the prosecution to allow Olmert, like any other citizen, to focus on the ongoing trial, rather then on additional hearings.