Holyland Judge Hints the Case Against Olmert Is Weak

The judge presiding over the Holyland corruption case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested the prosecution did not have strong evidence – the first clear indication of his thinking on the case.

Tel Aviv District CourtJudge David Rosen hinted Tuesday that he thinks the Holyland bribery case he is hearing against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is weak.

During an exchange with Olmert's defense attorney, Roy Blecher, Rosen said, "Many defendants would be willing to trade places with you when it comes to the quantity and strength of the evidence," offering the first clear indication of his opinion on the case.

The exchange began when Rosen asked Blecher to settle for fewer days to cross-examine a state's witness identified only by the initials S.D. He also criticized Blecher for devoting considerable time to questioning a document he said was insignificant.

Blecher responded by saying, "If you allot me four or five more days of examination, I will not have enough time. We are dealing with two charges: one on Holyland and another on the case of Hazera," a company that allegedly gave bribes to the prime minister.

Rosen then interjected with the comment.

Olmert is accused of expediting the expanded construction of the Holyland luxury apartment complex – from which the case takes its name – and facilitating other real estate ventures in exchange for bribes paid not to him but to others, including his indebted brother Yossi Olmert. Olmert has admitted to receiving the cash, but the statement by S.D., who served as a representative of the Holyland developers, is the only evidence it was transferred at Ehud Olmert's request.

Prior to Rosen's comment, Blecher cross-examined S.D. regarding a letter he claims to have written to Hillel Charney, the Holyland project developer in August 1994. In the letter, he mentions that Olmert's former assistant Shula Zaken asked on behalf of the then prime minister that a specific accountant be appointed to the Holyland project to "help the dialogue" between Olmert and the developers.

S.D. claimed in court that this was the first time Olmert asked for something from the developers. But Blecher argued the letter was forged years later with the aim of implicating Olmert in the affair. As proof, he said the letter was imprinted with a logo from one of S.D.'s companies with a seven-digit phone number that had only existed since 1996.

S.D. responded that the document presented to the court was a more recent photocopy of the original document from 1994. When Rosen asked if he had used fake documents in the past, S.D. said that he had "but not as a habit."

Olmert's media advisor, Amir Dan, said that the police and the prosecution had been negligent in failing to verify the authenticity of the document.