Israel′s Ehud Olmert to become first ex-prime minister to go to prison | News | DW | 14.02.2016
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Israel's Ehud Olmert to become first ex-prime minister to go to prison

After being acquitted of one charge and convicted of another, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to report to prison. Some say his prosecution came about because he sought a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will become the country's first former prime minister to sit behind bars when he reports to prison on Monday to begin a 19-month sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.

Olmert, 70, will serve his sentence in the same prison as former Israeli President Moshe Katsev, also 70 years old, who is serving a seven-year sentence for rape and sexual harassment.

The two men will be in separate sections of the Maasiyahu prison in the central Israeli town of Ramle.

The Israeli Prisons Service says Olmert will be admitted to a special block, "which is intended to house prisoners who for various reasons cannot be placed with the general prison population."

He will share the block, which can house 18 prisoners, with four other unidentified inmates.

"Due to his position, he is subject to various threats and is in danger," the prison service said.

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Former PM Olmert guilty of breach of trust

Olmert's bribery conviction stems from his 10-year stint as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 -2003. He was convicted of taking bribes in connection with a campaign finance scandal, and in another case related to the development of a large-scale housing complex in Jerusalem known as Holyland.

He was initially given a six-year sentence for the two convictions. Upon appeal he was cleared of the Holyland charge and given an 18 month sentence on the campaign finance charge in December.

A partial acquittal

At the time, Olmert expressed relief over his acquittal on the real estate charge.

"A heavy weight was lifted from my chest today, when the Supreme Court exonerated me of the main charge, of Holyland," he told reporters outside the courtroom. "I was never offered bribes, nor did I ever take any."

In addition to the conviction on the lesser charge, Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006-2009, agreed to a plea bargain on two obstruction of justice charges. He accepted an additional six-month prison term, though it was merely symbolic as it was to be served concurrently with his 18-month bribery sentence.

But last week an appeals court ruled that he could only serve five months concurrently, and tacked on another 30 days of prison time to his sentence.

He also agreed to pay a 50,000 shekel ($13,000, 11,500 euro) fine.

The obstruction of justice charge stems from his attempts to convince his secretary not to testify, and not to take a plea bargain.

His legal troubles, however, are not over. He faces an additional eight months jail time on unrelated fraud and corruption charges.

As prime minister, Olmert relaunched peace talks with the Palestinians, after they were frozen out by Olmert's predecessor Ariel Sharon. Some have suggested that the charges against Olmert came about because far-right political opponents opposed his overtures towards the Palestinians.

bik/jlw (AFP, dpa, AP)

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