The Tel Aviv District Court said Thursday that former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s trial over the so-called Holyland affair will resume Sunday, after his former top aide, Shula Zaken, who was hospitalized Wednesday, was unable to appear before the court.
On Wednesday, the court decided to postpone a hearing scheduled for Thursday after Zaken — a longtime aide to ex-prime minister Olmert and his office manager while he was Jerusalem mayor, when the alleged offenses took place — suffered from shortness of breath due to stress and was admitted to an emergency medical ward.
Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Eli Simchayofwas expected to take the stand Sunday in Zaken’s place, as he was next on the court’s list of defendants in the affair. But Zaken, who was released from hospital Thursday afternoon, is to resume testimony on Sunday.
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, are accused of accepting bribes. The Holyland initiative spawned an extensive Jerusalem development whose initiators allegedly were able to far exceed their original mandate by paying off officials.
Olmert was sentenced in September 2012 to a suspended yearlong jail term and a NIS 75,000 fine ($21,000), following his conviction for a separate, relatively minor breach of trust charge from his time as a government minister, and was cleared in two other, major cases against him. The state is appealing those verdicts.
Zaken, however, was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust in one of those cases, the Rishon Tours double billing affair, and sentenced to four months’ community service. A state appeal asked that she receive a harsher sentence for her actions.
In a hearing that took place earlier Wednesday, Zaken seemed emotionally distressed and confused as she was being questioned by her attorneys over her alleged receiving of funds from former state witness Shmuel Dachner.
Dachner had in 2004 allegedly given Zaken NIS 100,000 (about $28,000) in the form of five checks. The prosecution asserted that the checks were given to Zaken in order to persuade her to help kick start a project for one of Dachner’s companies.
Though Zaken’s defense originally stated that three of the five checks had been used by in order to pay back debt from Olmert’s election campaign, she told her attorneys on Wednesday that she had, in fact, spent all five checks herself.
The hearing was later cut short by the judge after Zaken was unable to clearly respond to her attorneys.
Last week, Zaken stormed out of a courtroom after she was apparently upset over the fact that Olmert had not defended her vigorously enough from charges of corruption during his cross-examination.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.