A judge denied a request on Monday morning by the State Prosecutor’s Office to delay the “Holyland” trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and others for at least a couple of weeks, following the death of the state’s main witness over the weekend.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the sudden death of the witness in the case, known to the Israeli public only as “Shin Dalet” due to a court-issued gag order, caught it by surprise.
The man was expected to testify for at least another two months, and his death on Friday has forced the prosecutor’s office to regroup.
Tel Aviv District Court judge David Rosen rejected the prosecution’s request for more time and said the trial would continue as scheduled. He instructed prosecutors to call on Tuesday witnesses from a list that had already been prepared. These witnesses were only scheduled to appear after the completion of testimony by Shin Dalet.
Shin Dalet was 76 years old and in poor health, having undergone several hospitalizations before and during the years-long legal saga. Since July, the witness had testified in over 70 hearings, most of the sessions lasting several hours.
It was not immediately clear how the death of the witness would affect Olmert, who is one of several defendants in the case. Some legal analysts said Friday they believe the witness’s demise marked “a death blow” for the state prosecution.
The Holyland affair, billed as Israel’s largest corruption scandal, revolves around a real estate development project in which dozens of city officials, including Olmert — who was mayor of Jerusalem at the time — are accused of accepting bribes. The Holyland project spawned an extensive Jerusalem development whose initiators allegedly were able to far exceed their original mandate by paying off officials.
The prosecution issued a statement saying it had already made clear Friday that, despite the tragic circumstances, it intended to continue with its case.
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