Former Olmert Aide: Police Probe Shows I Was Not Linked to Holyland Affair

Comment by Uri Messer comes as Israel Police officially recommends to indict former PM Olmert over the controversial Jerusalem building project.

A past aide of former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that a statement released earlier by Israel Police, indicating its recommendation to indict Olmert in connection to the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem, proved he had no connection with the controversial affair.

Uri Messer Moti Kimche 16.7.2010
Moti Kimche

Speaking to reporters just hours after the police's official recommendation, Uri Messer, once a close aide of the former PM, said that "as I had said all along, I do not have, nor did I ever have any connection to the Holyland affair."

Messer's attorney, Shimon Dolan, also speaking at the press conference, said that "today the police affirmed our claim that Messer was different from all the other suspects in the affair from the very beginning."

"Suspicions against [Messer] were based on an entirely unreliable state witness," Dolan added, saying that his client had been "in custody for eleven days since his name was associated with the affair, not because there was any evidence against him."

Messer's attorney added that "Messer is an easy name to tie with suspicions against other people," saying that "it was convenient, to the press as well, to link him to this affair. He has been wronged."

When asked whether or not Messer intended to testify in Olmert's trial, Dolan said that if, "just like any other person, he would be called to testify, he will. Never was there an agreement with him, or any talk of such an agreement."

Police Commissioner David Cohen, speaking at the occasion of the police's recommendation to indict the former prime minister, said earlier Monday that corruption investigators had "completed a significant investigation today…a milestone in the struggle against public corruption."

In April, Israel Police arrested Messer along with five others over alleged bribery and fraud in major building projects.

According to the charges that were then put forth against him, Messer - arrested alongside Jerusalem's former chief engineer Uri Sheetrit - was suspected of wrongdoing in connection with Holyland and the Tzuk Manara project in northern Israel, as well in dealings with the agricultural firm HaZera.

A Rishon Letzion court later extended Messer's arrest by six days. Another three detainees were remanded for an extra eight days, with one more placed under house arrest.