Sunday, July 27, 2008

Prosecution: 'Olmert Lying Shamelessly, Misleading the Public'

Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Officials from the State Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement authorities slammed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his recent statements that he is enduring a “sham trial” staged by the prosecution. Prosecutors said Olmert was “lying shamelessly” and accused him of misleading the public, an intensification of criticism that began with a statement by the Attorney-General that the PM is the most difficult public official investigators have ever faced. Olmert lashed out at the State Prosecutor’s Office Friday. "They turned the investigation into a kangaroo trial at the market square. I see foam on their lips. They are hunting me," the PM was quoted as saying to his colleagues.

The prosecution fired back angrily. According to one prosecutor, "The prime minister is lying shamelessly and misleading the public."

Meanwhile, lawyers for Prime Minister Olmert have agreed to allow police to question him, hours after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz labeled him the most difficult public official investigators have ever faced. The interrogation reportedly will take place next Friday.

State Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss made similar charges during his own probe of previous criminal allegations against the Prime Minister.

Appeal to Suspend Olmert
Mazuz's comments came in response to an appeal to the High Court by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchak that Prime Minister Olmert should be suspended. Police investigators have been unsuccessful in trying for more than three weeks to get the Prime Minister to set a date for another session of questioning for receiving of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from American businessmen.

The Attorney General told the High Court, "The police have met considerable difficulties in setting dates to interrogate the prime minister and in setting the length of the sessions. These are difficulties never experienced in the past with other public officials."

The police have evidence gathered in the United States and which investigators want to use in questioning him. Until now, the main witness has been American businessman Morris Talansky, who this week underwent five days of an intense and tough cross-examination by attorneys for Prime Minister Olmert.

Officials at the State Prosecutor's Office said they were unconvinced by Olmert's criticism Friday, claiming that the PM was trying to "keep his cool."

'Playing for Time'
"The prime minister has no time to be interrogated, and when he is questioned he wastes time. However, he does have time to brief reporters and attack the State Prosecutor's Office and the police," said the source in the prosecution.

While Olmert complained last week that the prosecution was leaking details of the investigation in order to coach their witnesses, the State Prosecutor’s Office turned Olmert’s accusation on its head.

"We gave no interest to publish such things, and since the prime minister's investigation began there have been leaks which have hurt the State Prosecutor's Office more than once," the source for the prosecution said. "We suggest that the prime minister refrain from accusing different elements before conducting a thorough examination."

Olmert recently accused State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Jerusalem District Prosecutor Eli Abarbanel of briefing reporters on sensitive details, complaining that they are allowed to talk and he isn’t.

An official in the State Prosecutor's Office responded that Olmert had "whined" that he was not allowed to present his side of the story, while he was in fact given several opportunities to do so throughout the investigation

"He is playing for time and misleading the public," said another State source.

No comments: