Israel’s ex-PM Olmert released from prison
Israeli ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert was freed from prison yesterday after being granted parole from a 27-month sentence for corruption scandals that brought down his promising political career. Olmert, the country’s first former premier to serve jail time, did not speak to reporters when leaving the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel. Wearing a dark-colored T-shirt, he was seen exiting the jail shortly after dawn yesterday before being driven away to his home in Tel Aviv, accompanied by Israeli security agents.
The 71-year-old, premier between 2006 and 2009, was convicted of graft and entered prison in February 2016. He was granted early release by a parole board on Thursday, reducing his sentence by around a third. Prosecutors decided not to appeal the decision. The conditions of his parole were not made public, but Israeli media reported that they include reporting to police twice a month and a ban on leaving the country.
He must also volunteer at associations that help the poor, Haaretz newspaper reported. He can request a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin that would lift the restrictions. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told army radio she would favor such a request. In March, Rivlin rejected a request for clemency by Olmert, but said he could consider pardoning him if he were granted parole.
‘Paid a heavy price’
Olmert, of the centre-right Kadima party when prime minister, resigned in September 2008 after police recommended he be indicted for graft. He however remained in office until March 2009, when rightwing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in to the post, which he has held ever since. Olmert won international acclaim for relaunching peace efforts with the Palestinians at the Annapolis conference in the United States in 2007, but they failed to bear fruit and the corruption charges against him have come to define his legacy.
The parole board said last week that while Olmert’s crimes were “severe,” he was “punished for his deeds and paid a heavy price.”“The inmate underwent a significant rehabilitation process in prison and displays motivation to continue it,” it said. The decision came after Olmert was recently rushed to hospital after experiencing chest pains in prison.—AFP
RAMLA: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (left), 71, leaves the Maasyahu prison yesterday. —AFP