Messer Blames Police Custody on Figures Abroad

The court rejected an appeal by former Ehud Olmert confidant Uri Messer against an extension of his remand by five days yesterday. Messer was arrested last week in connection with the alleged bribery scheme related to the Holyland residential development in Jerusalem.

Messer's attorney argued at the Petah Tikva District Court yesterday that Messer was being kept in custody because of people abroad.

"It's intolerable that other people who are not in the country are a pretext for detention. It is very possible that those people will extend their stay - will they keep him in custody then too?" asked attorney Shimon Dolan.

Messer is suspected of mediating large sums of money paid as bribes to a senior figure in connection with the Holyland residential development and other large construction projects.

In his ruling yesterday Judge Avraham Tal wrote that there was sufficient new investigative material linking Messer to the suspicions against him, and expressed the concerns of the police that there was a real possibility that he would disrupt the investigation if allowed free on bail.

He added that the police investigation was proceeding at a reasonable pace. Tal said that he did not belittle the damage that the remand was causing Messer due to his age, his social status and the fact that this was his first time in police custody, but noted that there was no option but to extend his custody.

Court deliberations revealed Sunday that police had considered releasing Messer to house arrest and discussed the option with the suspect and his defense attorney, Dolan. However, several hours later the police rejected the possibility, claiming "new evidence."

"It is hard to shake the feeling that there is a link between Messer's arrest and the arrival of a senior figure to Israel," Dolan said. He added that "it is strange that the police approved the release of Messer on bail and two - three hours later they claim to have new evidence overturning the decision. It is strange that for months of secret investigation there was no evidence linking Messer to the Holyland affair, and in a few days indirect evidence was found on this."