Published On: Mon, Feb 15th, 2016

Former Israeli PM Olmert to start prison sentence

Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert on Monday becomes Israel’s first ex-prime minister to sit behind bars. Disgraced former Prime Minister begins his 19-month prison term for separate counts of bribery and obstruction of justice. The start of Olmert’s prison term will close a chapter in his long legal odyssey since leaving office in 2009.

He is expected to be eligible for early release if he displays good behavior during his sentence (as is the standard in Israel).

Supreme Court still debating appeal against third sentence of eight months for fraud and corruption.

The 70-year-old will report to the minimum-security Maasiyahu Prison in Ramla, where former Israeli president Moshe Katsav is also serving a seven-year prison term for rape and sexual harassment.

The Israeli Prisons Service says that Olmert will be admitted to the prison’s special block 10, “which is intended to house prisoners who for various reasons cannot be placed with the general prison population.”

He will join four other unidentified inmates in block 10, which has a maximum capacity of 18.

“Due to his position, he is subject to various threats and is in danger, ” the prisons service says.

The self-contained section will cater to the prisoners’ needs, including public telephones, classrooms and a block recreation room, a visiting room, rooms for consultations with lawyers, a room used as a synagogue, a library, sports equipment, dining room, and yard.

Olmert was initially given six years’ prison in May 2014 for taking bribes in the early 2000s in connection with the construction of Jerusalem’s massive HolyLand residential complex, which grew out of the years he was mayor of Jerusalem (1992-2003),

but the sentence was later reduced to 18 months.

Last week, an Israeli court handed him an additional month for obstructing justice. He admitted to the crime as part of a plea bargain in that case.

His prison sentence could still be extended further. The Supreme Court is still debating his appeal against a third sentence of eight months for fraud and corruption.

In a video released on Monday, Olmert maintained that he is innocent of bribery, but said that he accepts the verdict with “a very heavy heart.”

Olmert expressed regret that his term as prime minister concluded under the shadow of a police investigation.

“Today I am a former prime minister who stands to serve a prison sentence, ” he said. “This is an unusual and grave development, which some will see as confirmation of the Israeli democracy’s might. But in the same breath I would like to raise the possibility that the legal case against me snowballed due to non-judicial reasons.
“…Perhaps once time passes the public could examine this sad moment through critical and balanced eyes, ” he said.

Olmert was elected to parliament in 1973 as a member of the rightwing Likud party and was mayor of Jerusalem,  served as a cabinet minister, holding the trade and industry portfolio as well as several others.

He broke off from Likud with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to form the center-right Kadima party in 2005 and became premier in 2006 after Sharon slipped into a coma.

like any other prisoner, Olmert will be photographed, searched, given a medical examination and interviewed by various officials, including a social worker.

Olmert is allowed to bring from home: Four pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, two towels, two tracksuits, two sweatshirts without hoods or lining, a single-sized blanket (not a duvet), two bed sheets, a pillow case and personal hygiene products.

He can keep up to 1, 500 shekels in cash; he is also allowed religious articles such as tefillin, a prayer shawl, and religious books.

Other ministers in prison: Interior minister Aryeh Deri, who spent 22 months in 2000 for taking bribes during his term between 1988 to 1993.

Deri returned to the interior ministry in January 2016,  after his predecessor Silvan Shalom resigned over allegations of sexual harassment.

Ultra-Orthodox Shas party, former health minister Shlomo Benizri, served six months in prison after being convicted of bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, head of the Shuvu Yisrael sect, who was convicted of trying to give bribes to police Brig, is to start his one year jail sentence on Tuesday, but a decision on Sunday ordered that he serve his time at the medical center of the Israel Prison Service (IPS) due to his health condition.

 

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