Olmert Trial Faces Delay as Prosecutor Who Blasted Judges Takes 'Short Leave'

The state will request a delay in hearing evidence in the trial of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, following yesterday's meeting between State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Deputy Jerusalem District Prosecutor Uri Corb.

Corb, a prosecutor in the Olmert trial, was quoted this week as having publicly criticized the judiciary. As a result, he has agreed to go on leave for an unannounced period of time.

While on leave, Corb's case will be examined by the disciplinary department at the Civil Service Commission. If he is found to have committed serious violations, a complaint will be filed against him at the commission's disciplinary court. At the end of such a process, the court may opt to sanction Corb - which could range anywhere from a reprimand to dismissal.

The hearing of testimonies in Olmert's trial on the Talansky, Rishon Tours and the Investment Center affairs, are scheduled to begin next Monday. Corb had been assigned to conduct the trial in court, and is the one who knows the prosecution's case best.

At this time, the state prosecution has no one to immediately replace Corb if a decision is made to suspend or dismiss him. As such, Corb's going on leave necessitates a suspension of the trial.

The daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published transcripts of statements made by Corb during a course he taught at the Sha'arei Mishpat College in Hod Hasharon - on the legal system, the judiciary (including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch) and Lador.

Among statements attributed to Corb was that "a large portion of the judges in the State of Israel are major asses."

The Justice Ministry announced yesterday that Lador had called Corb in to clarify his position on the matter, and it was agreed that the prosecutor would take a short leave.

In a statement issued by the ministry, Corb said that "following the many reports in recent days, including many distortions targeting me, I am asking at this stage to take a short leave. I have already expressed to you [referring to Lador] and the media great sorrow at the damage I have caused by making use of a style that was out of place. I intend to find a way to clarify things in the coming days, and will do my best to correct the bad impression."

In a letter distributed through the State Prosecutor's Office on behalf of Corb, the following was written: "I have a lot to say about the way things were presented, and which were attributed to me in a distorted fashion in the media. Nonetheless, it is clear to me in retrospect that I used poor expressions that were said in a limited forum where the atmosphere was jovial. Unfortunately the media distorted many of the messages relayed during the course, and even presented them in a contradictory way."

On a personal note, Corb said "I wish to apologize to every one of you for the damage I have caused to the image of the State Prosecutor's Office, and to stress that I never had any intention of harming the legal system in general and the State Prosecutor's Office in particular. Those among you who know me know that I love the State Prosecutor's Office, my place of work, and the people. Certainly I had no intention to harm you. Once given the opportunity, I will voice my opinion and my position in detail."

Corb's colleagues at the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office sent Lador a letter yesterday supporting him and asking that he act "without interference by interested parties."

Meanwhile, the Courts Administration contacted the chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Israel Bar Association, Dror Arad-Ayalon, asking that he examine Corb's case and take the necessary disciplinary measures against him - in line with the severity of the situation and in line with the committee's assessment of the matter.

"The statements themselves, as they were published, deserve to be condemned," Arad-Ayalon said yesterday, speaking with Haaretz. "Criticism by lawyers against the courts must be polite and professional, without use of crass examples. The question of whether his expressions crossed the line into an ethical violation will be determined officially."