State Prosecution closes probe into Olmert’s memoir leaks

Shai Nitzan says no basis to open criminal investigation into suspicions former PM shared classified information with publisher

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert seen at the Jerusalem Supreme Court on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Emil Salman/POOL)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert seen at the Jerusalem Supreme Court on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Emil Salman/POOL)

Israel’s State Prosecution on Tuesday announced it had closed a preliminary probe into suspicions that former prime minister Ehud Olmert shared classified material in the process of writing his memoirs, and would not be pursuing the case further.

“The State Prosecution has decided, based on the recommendation of the attorney general, not to open a criminal investigation into the incident,” a statement released by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan read.

On May 18, one of Olmert’s attorneys was allegedly caught by prison officers with classified material belonging to the former prime minister after a visit to the jail cell where the ex-premier was serving a prison sentence for fraud and bribery.

During a search of the cell, security officers found additional classified documents.

Consequently, law enforcement officials decided to open a preliminary probe into Olmert. The lawyer was allegedly carrying two chapters from Olmert’s memoirs, which he was writing while incarcerated.

Olmert’s attorneys had denied the allegations, saying that “Olmert does not need any seal of approval for his sense of responsibility on matters pertaining to Israel’s national security.” They stressed that Olmert had provided the entire book to Israel’s military censor two months ago.

“Beyond the book no classified material has been sent out, transferred or published by Mr. Olmert,” his lawyers said.

In his legal opinion published Tuesday explaining the decision not to open a criminal investigation, Nitzan wrote that Olmert did indeed pass classified materials to his publisher that the military censor had barred from publication.

The findings of the probe concluded, however, that the information was shared in the normal manner of communication between a writer and his publisher, Nitzan said.

There was therefore no reason to believe that Olmert was planning to publish the materials without the necessary permission, he concluded.

During the probe, the State Prosecution was criticized for authorizing a raid on the Yedioth Aharonoth publishing house in which police seized, in addition to Olmert’s memoir, material from two other manuscripts — one by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and a biography about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by veteran journalist Ben Caspit.

In a highly unusual statement released in June 2017, the Justice Ministry denied nefarious intent in a raid on the publishing house of Ehud Olmert’s memoirs, and said it would disregard any information seized that does not relate to the jailed former prime minister’s alleged divulging of sensitive information for the book.

Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, was released from prison on July 2, 2017, after serving 16.5 months of a 19-month sentence for breach of trust and bribery in two separate corruption convictions.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert leaves Ramle’s Ma’asiyahu prison on July 2, 2017, following his release. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

He was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, which has been characterized as among the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.

He was sentenced in 2014 to six years in prison over two separate charges of taking bribes in the early 2000s, when he served as mayor of Jerusalem. That sentence was reduced to 18 months after the Supreme Court overturned one of his convictions on appeal.

In September 2016, Olmert was sentenced to an additional eight months behind bars for the so-called Talansky affair. In that case, a court upheld a 2015 conviction over his accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in exchange for political favors during his decade-long term as mayor from 1993 to 2003.

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