A section of the memoirs being written by former prime minister Ehud Olmert has been impounded by an Israeli court on suspicion that it contains classified material.
Two chapters from his work were seized by police in a raid on the offices of the publishing arm of Yediot Aharonot, while other unclassified sections of the 1,400-page memoir along with 11,000 emails must be returned to the publisher, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ruled.
The raid was carried out after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit authorized a preliminary review to determine if Olmert had leaked classified documents without authorization in the writing of his memoirs while in prison. It will be up to Mandelblit to decide if a full criminal investigation is warranted.
Yediot Aharonot’s attorney Paz Moser said that the police had to return to the book publishing offices a second time, since they did not download the files correctly the first time. On the second try, they downloaded only 16 documents.
The case may become a freedom of the press cause celebre. The Union of Journalists in Israel condemned the documents seizure on the grounds that it violated “the principle of journalistic confidentiality, which has been recognized many times in the rulings of the High Court, and protects the flow of information to the public through the press.”
In a statement last month, Olmert’s attorney defended his client, who “does not require any seal of approval as to his connection and responsibility for subjects that are related to Israel’s national security. He has never leaked anything sensitive on subjects of security or intelligence that could have damaged the state of Israel.”
Olmert has submitted his manuscript to the Censor’s Office.
On Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the police documents seizure a “disturbing event.”
“It’s very disturbing to me; we want to protect the public’s right to know and freedom of expression,” Erdan told Army Radio, adding that at the end of the investigation there should be a debate as to whether the police’s actions were justified.
Meanwhile, Olmert, 71, has been held over at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer for tests, after complaining of chest pains earlier this week. An echocardiogram conducted at the hospital showed that Olmert did not suffer a heart attack, but that without proper treatment he remains at risk for one.