State Seeks to Postpone Olmert Trial After Prosecutor Bows Out

The state has asked the Jerusalem District Court to delay the start of testimony in former prime minister Ehud Olmert's trial by three months, because the chief prosecutor in the case, Uri Corb, has been forced to take a leave of absence. The testimony had been due to begin this coming Monday.

Olmert's defense team initially countered with a press statement demanding that the original timetable be kept.

"When attorney [Yehuda] Weinstein stepped down from Olmert's defense team because he was appointed attorney general, the defense attorneys' request to delay the trial was rejected," the statement argued.

But later that afternoon, the Olmert team informed the court that it had rescinded its objection and would leave the matter to the judges' discretion.

In his request to the court, Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel explained that on February 14, the civil service commissioner decided to launch a disciplinary investigation against Corb.

"Corb has been with the case from the start, and he is privy to all its details and is supposed to play a significant role in court," Abarbanel wrote. "His absence at this stage of the case would damage the prosecution's ability to present its case to the court."

Corb was forced to take a leave of absence on Sunday after the daily Yedioth Ahronoth published derogatory statements he had made about judges during a law course he taught. Among other things, he said that many judges were "jackasses."

Abarbanel acknowledged that the delay would disrupt the trial, but said he would not have requested it had this not been "an unusual exigency that could not have been predicted."

Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission began collecting recorded evidence and interviewing witnesses for its probe of Corb.

Sources at the Civil Service Commission said the disciplinary investigation would last several weeks, but not more than a month.

A source familiar with the case said the request for a three-month hiatus stemmed from the fact that a disciplinary hearing against Corb could have two possible outcomes: Either he could be given a relatively light punishment that would allow him to return to the trial, or he could be severely sanctioned, by being suspended or even dismissed from the civil service.