Monday, September 08, 2008
Olmert could go to prison
Legal expert says police indictment recommendation serious, but says past experience shows State Prosecution may decide to ignore it
"The police recommendation regarding the indictment isn't binding. The police's role is to investigate, and that's why this is just a recommendation, and experience shows us that recommendations aren't always taken into account," Professor Ariel Bendor of the Bar-Ilan University Law Department told Ynet on Sunday evening. Earlier in the day police recommend the State Prosecution indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the Morris Talansky and Rishontours affairs on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The final decision regarding whether an indictment will be filed, and its nature, lies with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.
Professor Bendor said the offenses Olmert may be tried on are "very grave. If the prime minister is convicted on these charges, they carry a sentence of active prison time and will most likely bear moral turpitude."
However, Bendor noted, past attorneys general have ignored police indictment recommendations against former prime ministers such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.
"The considerations about whether (Olmert) should be indicted should be the same as those taken into account in the case of Joe Citizen. Nevertheless, experience shows that attorneys general have shown exceptional prudence when it comes to these decisions," said Bendor.
"It's important to note that in Olmert's case, he's already announced he intends to step down, so the attorney general's decision won't be about pressuring him to leave office."
Of mountains and mice
The State Prosecution tried to project a business-as-usual demeanor after the police statement was issued.
"Unlike the police, we make decisions, not recommendations," a source within the Prosecution told Ynet.
"There were a number of cases in the past wherein the police recommended indicting prime ministers on various offenses – and when the case got here everything changed," recalled the official in an apparent reference to corruption allegations against Ariel Sharon.
Another Prosecution source told Ynet the police may have gone too far by recommending Olmert be indicted on bribery charges. "The way I see it, if there is an indictment – bribery won't be one of the counts," said the source.
Most in the Prosecution believe the prime minister will indeed eventually be indicted, and the answer is expected in a number of weeks, likely towards the end of the holiday season.
There were those in the State Prosecution on Sunday who sharply criticized the police's decision to go public with its recommendation. "It could have been done quietly, without the media hoopla. We all remember other cases where something the police made a lot of noise about ended up being tiny when it reached the Prosecution and attorney general - the mountain gave birth to a mouse," said one official.