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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ex-Israeli PM Olmert begins 19-month prison sentence

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert enters prison to begin his sentence (AP)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert enters prison to begin his sentence (AP)

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has arrived at the prison where he is to begin serving a 19-month sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.

Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to serve time in prison. TV footage showed him walking into the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel.

The 70-year-old was convicted in March 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a controversial real-estate project in Jerusalem.

The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister, years before he became prime minister in 2006.

Olmert's seven-year legal saga undermined the last serious round of Middle East peace talks and propelled hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

Olmert walked into the Maasiyahu prison hours after he released a video making a last-minute plea to Israelis meant to salvage his legacy.

In the video, he appealed to the nation to remember his peace-making efforts as leader and denied any wrongdoing in the bribery conviction against him.

The three and a half minute video, released by his office and filmed at his home a day earlier, shows a weary-looking Olmert.

He says it is a "painful and strange" time for him and his family and that he is paying a "heavy" price, but also adding that he has accepted the sentence because "no man is above the law".

"At this hour it is important for me to say again ... I reject outright all the corruption allegations against me," Olmert said in the footage.

He said that in hindsight, the Israeli public might view the charges against him and the seven-year legal ordeal that enveloped him in a "balanced and critical way".

"I hope that then many will recognise that during my term as prime minister, honest and promising attempts were made to create an opening for hope and a better future of peace, happiness and well-being," he said.

Olmert is also awaiting a ruling in an appeal in a separate case, in which he was sentenced to eight months in prison for unlawfully accepting money from a US supporter.

Press Association

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