Olmert trial to begin in February

(JTA) — Ehud Olmert’s trial on corruption charges is set to begin on Feb. 22, 2010.

The date was set Friday at a preliminary hearing in Jerusalem District Court. The former Israeli prime minister is charged with fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion, fraudulent receipt of goods and false registration of corporate goods.

The charges stem from allegations that he accepted cash from American businessman Morris Talansky in exchange for favors, double-billed U.S. charities and an Israeli government ministry for travel expenses for overseas trips and granted personal favors to a former law partner acting on behalf of a company.

Olmert’s lawyers had wanted to delay the start of the trial until April 2010 in order to review all the evidence, but a judge set the February date as a compromise.

In court on Friday, Olmert declared his innocence.

"I have arrived here as a completely innocent man, and I believe I’ll leave here a completely innnocent man," he said, according to media reports. He said that he had been subject to "an almost inhumane three years of slander and interrogrations" and "paid a heavy price."

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