Former Israeli Premier Olmert Sentenced to Six Years in Jail

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes, the first Israeli premier to face possible jail time.

Olmert, the latest in a line of convicted Israeli politicians, received an additional suspended sentence of two years, according to a transcript of the ruling e-mailed by the Courts Administration. He is scheduled to report to prison on Sept. 1, unless his conviction is overturned on appeal, Israel Radio said.

“We’re talking about an exceptional, extreme and unjust penalty,” Amir Dan, a spokesman for Olmert, said on Israel Radio. “We will appeal to the Supreme Court in the hope that the true picture will be portrayed there.”

Olmert, 68, was found guilty on March 31 of illegally accepting funds during his 1993-2003 stint as Jerusalem mayor from developers seeking to build the Holyland apartment complex, whose dimensions ballooned over the years. The court document put the sum at 560,000 shekels ($162,000.)

Judge David Rozen, who handed down the sentence, said Olmert’s crime reflected “moral turpitude,” a ruling that would bar him from re-entering politics for seven years.

Olmert assumed the premiership in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke, and won office in national elections two months later.

Previously Cleared

A cascade of graft allegations dating back to his tenures as Jerusalem mayor and a cabinet minister led him to call early elections so he could step aside to battle the charges. He was succeeded by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.

Olmert, who was cleared of graft charges in the 1990s, beat them again in 2012, though he was convicted on the lesser count of breach of trust, receiving a fine and suspended sentence.

He is the latest former senior Israeli government official to face jail in recent years. Former President Moshe Katsav was sent to prison for seven years for rape, former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson was sentenced to five years for theft and money laundering, and former Health Minister Shlomo Benizri went to jail for taking bribes.

Among those sentenced today with Olmert was former Bank Hapoalim Ltd. chairman Dani Dankner, who received three years in prison on a bribery conviction.

“This is a legal process that takes place in democratic nations,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said today, while on an official visit to Norway. He added that his country’s judicial system is “free of personal influences. Personally, this is a sad day for me,” Peres said, in remarks broadcast on Army Radio.

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