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Prosecution asks to reverse Olmert trial
Following dramatic development in double-billing affair, prosecutor in former prime minister's trial asks court to change order of testimonies; defense counsels object
The prosecution in former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's trial asked the court on Tuesday to reverse the order of testimonies and to begin with the double-billing affair instead of the Investment Center and Talansky affairs.

 

The surprising request was made by Jerusalem District Prosecutor Eli Abarbanel, following a certain development in the double-billing affair.

 

Olmert's lawyer, Attorney Eli Zohar, strongly objected to the request, saying it significantly hurt the defendants' rights. The lawyer of the second defendant, Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken, expressed his reservations as well, saying that "it appears Abarbanel is not sufficiently aware of the difficultly created with the defense."

 

Following the unusual request, the judges left the courtroom for a consultation before delivering their decision.

 

Justice Moussia Arad said during the discussion, "I have never encountered such a request. There were cases in which one investigation related to another, and the trial continued. I don’t understand why the defense agrees to a break and why you (the prosecution) are asking for this."

 

Olmert's media advisor, Amir Dan, said in response to the prosecution's request, "Once again we find ourselves astonished in light of the conduct of the law enforcement authorities, who on the one hand rush to file an indictment, get entangled and try to change the world in order to get out of it. The State Prosecutor's Office has not learned a thing from Talansky's deposition, which turned into a big farce and is now repeating itself."

 

Attorney Zohar told Ynet during the break in the discussion, "This morning we were surprised to hear from the State Prosecutor's Office about certain events taking place every two-three months and that therefore the prosecution cannot continue with witnesses related to the investment Center. We also regret the fact that the continuation of the trial is being disrupted and our attempts to end it as soon as possible have failed."

  

The double-billing affair entails allegations that Olmert was double and triple-billing trips abroad sponsored by Jewish institutions, and either pocketed the difference or financed trips for relatives.

 

The indictment against the former prime minister, which followed a lengthy and highly publicized police investigation, includes charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion, as well as a charge of fraudulently obtaining benefits to which the State attributes aggravated circumstances.

 

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