Israel’s top court reduces Olmert’s jail time

Israel’s Supreme Court acquits one of two bribery cases against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and reduces his jail time to 18 months

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert delivers a statement to the press as he comes out of the courtroom at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015

Israel’s Supreme Court reduced former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s penalty to 18 months over bribery conviction on Tuesday.

Olmert was charged with two bribery scandals and the Tel Aviv District Court had sentenced him to six years in prison in May last year.

One of the accusations was accepting bribes to promote the controversial Holyland complex in Jerusalem, of which the Supreme Court discharged.

The money was earmarked for Olmert's cash-strapped brother, but four of the five judges of the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Olmert was involved in or aware of the transaction.

He’s now only charged with accepting bribes during an election campaign.

Olmert has been acquitted of the felony of taking a bribe of 500,000 shekels ($128,500), according to the court decision.

But he is "unanimously convicted of the felony of taking a bribe of 60,000 shekels."

The previous six year sentence is on hold until his appeal is over. His sentence will start on February 15.

Olmert said he is “satisfied” with the Supreme Court’s decision.

"A large weight has been lifted from my heart with the Supreme Court deciding to acquit me of the main charge in the Holyland affair," he said.

"No bribe was ever offered to me and I never accepted one."

The charges go back to the early 2000s when he was the mayor of Jerusalem, before he became the PM in 2006.

The court reduced Olmert’s sentence, but the decision ended any possibility for him to return to politics.

He will be prohibited from politics for seven years after he completes his term.

Olmert was also sentenced for eight months over a separate bribery case in May this year, which is also on appeal.

Israelis’ reactions

The case is seen in Israel as a point of pride in proving that no one is above the law.

Isaac Herzog, head of the opposition Labour party, said that the ruling "proved that nobody, not even a prime minister, is above the law."

"May this serve a lesson to public figures -- never use the power given to us... for personal gains," his spokesman said.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katzav is also serving a seven year prison term for rape and sexual harassment.

TRTWorld and agencies