Olmert takes stand in corruption trial

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began testifying on his own behalf at his trial on corruption charges.

On May 31, the first day of the defense phase of the trial, Olmert told judges in Jerusalem District Court that “I am fighting for my life here and nothing else.”

He spent most of the session telling his life story, though the judges tried to cut him off.

“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,” Olmert told them. His testimony is expected to last several court sessions.

Olmert is on trial in three cases: for allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through a travel agency; for allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky; and for allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case.

Charged with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion, Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister to stand trial. He resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted. — jta