Olmert Media Adviser Calls New Charges Campaign of Persecution’

Indictment could have improper impact on witness testimony, aide claims.

The new draft indictment against Ehud Olmert is one more move in a “campaign of persecution,” the former prime minister’s media adviser said yesterday.

The Holyland development, center of one of a series of corruption scandal surrounding Ehud Olmert

“This is part of an extended, planned campaign of persecution,” Amir Dan said. “It’s [coming] at the height of an ongoing legal proceeding − something that could have a direct and improper impact on everyone slated to testify in this proceeding in the coming days.”

Olmert is currently standing trial in three other cases, and is also due to be questioned by police in a new case, the Holyland corruption scandal.

Olmert is accused, together with former cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel, of making dozens of political appointments during the former’s terms as industry, trade and labor minister, communications minister and finance minister.

Most of the beneficiaries were Likud Central Committee members; the goal was to strengthen Olmert’s position in Likud, to which he belonged before moving to Kadima.
The appointments were in various agencies subordinate to these ministries, such as the postal authority, the Israel Lands Administration and the labor courts.

Attorneys for Yehezkel were quick to indicate his planned defense: Yehezkel was just obeying Olmert’s orders; he had no power to make appointments himself. Moreover, Olmert received thousands of requests, of which only a small portion were from Likud Central Committee members, and all − not just those from central committee members − were forwarded to the relevant bodies for consideration, on Olmert’s standing orders. 

Both men stand accused of fraud, breach of trust, and a form of electoral bribery. At that time, Likud’s central committee chose the party’s Knesset slate, so the benefits were allegedly aimed at influencing central committee members to vote Olmert into a high slot on the list.

Monday’s announcement surprised many legal sources, who said a decision on this case was originally supposed to have been made only after the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rules on former minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s alleged political appointments. That verdict, expected in another few months, will be the first major verdict on political appointments, and will thus set legal guidelines for other such cases.

But a legal source familiar with both cases said Olmert’s case differed from that of Hanegbi both legally and factually. Moreover, the Hanegbi verdict is likely to be appealed to the district court, and perhaps even the Supreme Court, so a final ruling will probably not be issued for years. Therefore, the source said, “there were no grounds for waiting.”

Olmert and Yehezkel are entitled to a hearing at which they can try to persuade prosecutors to drop the indictment, but since Olmert is currently busy with his other cases, the State Prosecutor’s Office said it will be flexible about the timing of this hearing. It will probably take place only in another several months.