Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began the second day of testimony at his trial Thursday, in which he is being charged with fraud and breach of trust, by crying out in denial that he took bribes from associates Morris Talansky and Uri Messer.
"I never took a bribe from Talansky, and I never hid bribes with Uri Messer. I told investigators this and I'm saying it again today," he yelled out in the courtroom while banging on the witness stand with his fist.
Earlier Olmert accused the State Comptroller of pettiness. "The impression people are working to create of me is that of a serial offender," he said.
"I'm not saying don't investigate, don't check, but why must you publish every two weeks?" he asked. When asked by the judge whether he believes State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has a personal vendetta against him Olmert answered, "I don't know."
Olmert also discussed a long list of political topics on the stand. "Gilad Shalit's kidnapping was a traumatic experience, we all know that. It is not proper for me to get into this here. I accompanied this issue and made decisions. We did things that cannot be discussed. At this moment Gilad Shalit is not with us and this is without a doubt a difficult issue I carry with me," Olmert said as part of his description of various unrelated issues.
He also told the court of the moments following his predecessor's stroke – Ariel Sharon – after which he took office.
"From that moment everything changed," he said. "Every second a head of state called. The first to call were Mubarak and Abdullah," he said, referring to the now deposed Egyptian president and king of Jordan, respectively.
Judges ask attorney to move on
At some point during his testimony the judges lost patience, and asked his attorney to focus his questioning on the issues at hand. Moussia Arad said, "There is no doubt that Olmert acted properly in many matters. There is no need for him to describe all of the matters in which he acted properly."
His attorney, Eli Zohar, answered, "He can't", to which Arad responded: "He can, but you will not allow him to."
Olmert also found time to discuss the sale of his house in 2004, which came under investigation by the State Comptroller's Office after he continued to live there but paid the new owner rent that appeared suspiciously low.
"The comptroller said he would check it out, but the very fact that this was published obviously immediately grabbed headlines as if there was nothing more important going on in the world or in Israel," he said.
On Sunday Olmert testified regarding Shula Zaken, who is being tried alongside him, as his former bureau chief.
"I was older, she was a young woman," he said. "We thought that she was the most qualified. She was just waiting for that moment… She came a long way, became the chief of the Prime Minister's Office."
But he began by telling the court his life story. "I'm fighting for my life here, nothing else," Olmert told the judges.
"I have gone through much pain and distress to get here," he said. "What I'm telling you connects to who I am – not who I was made out to be… It's very very important that you get to know the man that I believe I am."
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