Jerusalem Corruption Probe: Ex-Olmert Aide to Stay in Custody

Uri Messer arrested last week in connection with enabling alleged 'Holyland' bribery scheme.

The Petah Tikva District Court rejected on Monday an appeal by former Ehud Omert aide Uri Messer's against a recent ruling to extend his remand by five days, following his arrest last week in connection with enabling an alleged bribery scheme related to the Holyland residential development in Jerusalem.

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 Monday, Justice 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.

Judge 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 remand.

Court deliberations revealed yesterday that police had considered releasing Messer to house arrest and discussed the option with the suspect and his defense attorney, Shimon 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."

The judge was upset with the "humorous tone" that Messer took when he gave his version of events regarding the suspicions against him. Dolan said that "after it was clear to Messer that he was being released he joked with the investigator in a lighter atmosphere, and this was misunderstood by the court."