Saturday 25 November 2017

Olmert gets jail for corruption despite Blair's testimony

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attends his trial at Jerusalem District Court. Photo: AP
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attends his trial at Jerusalem District Court. Photo: AP

Aron Heller in Jerusalem

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been sentenced to eight months in prison for unlawfully accepting money from a US supporter, despite a character witness statement from Tony Blair.

It caps the dramatic downfall of a man who only years earlier led the country and hoped to bring about a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Olmert was convicted in March in a retrial in Jerusalem District Court. The sentencing comes in addition to a six-year prison sentence he received last year in a separate bribery conviction, ensuring the end of the former premier's political career.

Olmert's lawyer, Eyal Rozovsky, said Olmert's legal team was "very disappointed" by the ruling and would appeal to Israel's Supreme Court. They were granted a 45-day stay, meaning the former Israeli leader will avoid incarceration for now.

Olmert also was given a suspended sentence of an additional eight months and fined the equivalent of €23,000.

A slew of character witnesses had vouched for Olmert, including former British prime minister Tony Blair, in written statements read aloud yesterday. The verdict stated it recognised Olmert's contributions to Israeli society and sentenced him to less than the prosecution had demanded. Still, it ruled that "a black flag hovers over his conduct".

Olmert was forced to resign in early 2009 amid the corruption allegations. His departure cleared the way for hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu's election, and subsequent Mideast peace efforts have not succeeded.

Olmert (69), was acquitted in 2012 of a series of charges that included accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from US businessman Morris Talansky when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a Cabinet minister.

Olmert was found to have received about €550,000 from Talansky during his term as mayor, and additional amounts in cash during his term as a Cabinet minister, but a court did not find evidence the money had been used for unlawful personal reasons or illegal campaign financing.

Irish Independent

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