Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday appealed his conviction in the Holyland bribery case to the Supreme Court. Olmert was convicted in March of accepting bribes from state’s witness Shmuel Dechner, now deceased, through his bureau chief Shula Zaken and on behalf of his own brother, Yossi Olmert. In May he was sentenced to six years in prison and fined 1 million shekels ($292,400). While appeals must generally be filed within 45 days, Olmert got an extension so that his new attorneys, Iris Niv Sabag and Navit Negev, could familiarize themselves with the case.
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The appeal argues that Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen, who presided over the case, relied on the testimony of the state’s witness to convict Olmert, even though Dechner died before he could be cross-examined and Rozen had said he was unreliable. Olmert’s attorneys argued that the only testimony to the effect that Olmert had asked Dechner to give Yossi Olmert 500,000 shekels was that of Dechner himself.
Referring to Olmert’s crimes before reading out his verdict in March, Rozen said, “Olmert served as prime minister of Israel. From this lofty and honored job, the most important one there could be, he reached the position of someone convicted of crimes and offenses that are contemptible and grave beyond measure. … A public servant who takes bribes is akin to a traitor, someone who betrayed the trust placed in him, trust without which there cannot be proper public service.”
Rozen added, “It’s important to note the corrupt relationship between Ehud Olmert and Dechner, the state’s witness. The state’s witness provided significant assistance to [Olmert’s] election campaign. Olmert exploited his lofty position to advance his interests while in his job as a public servant and received enormous amounts of money. Olmert turned to the ‘treasure troves’ that were put at his disposal and exploited his position to take money from a developer who needed his help.”