Former premier freed on parole after board reduces corruption sentence by one-third on good behavior

Ehud Olmert is seen departing Ma'asiyahu Prison in Ramle on July 11, 2016, for his first leave since he began his 19-month sentence. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Ehud Olmert is seen departing Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle on July 11, 2016, for his first leave since he began his 19-month sentence. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)


Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was released on parole early Sunday morning after serving 16 months in prison on corruption charges.

Olmert, the country’s first former premier to serve jail time, did not speak to reporters when leaving the Ma’asiyahu prison in central Israel.

The 71-year-old Olmert, premier between 2006 and 2009, was convicted of graft and entered prison in February 2016. He had been sentenced to 27 months.

The parole board on Thursday ruled in favor of early release for Olmert on good behavior. The State Attorney’s Office later on Thursday said it would not appeal the decision, paving the way for the former prime minister’s release.

Olmert was expected to ask President Reuven Rivlin to relieve him of his parole restrictions.

Olmert was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, which has been characterized as among the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.

In September 2016, he was sentenced to an additional eight months behind bars for the so-called Talansky affair. In that case, a court upheld a 2015 conviction over his accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky, in exchange for political favors during his decade-long term as mayor from 1993 to 2003.

Olmert’s chances for early release were complicated over the last few weeks as he was accused of divulging sensitive information in memoirs he is writing and of sneaking a transcript out of prison

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert leaves the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on February 10, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert leaves the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on February 10, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)


The prosecution had previously said the book Olmert is writing contains “sensitive security issues” and that his lawyer was caught leaving the prison with a chapter on “secret operations” not approved by the censor for publication.

Olmert has denied doing anything wrong.

Police searched the offices of the Yedioth Books publishing house and the home of Yehuda Yaari, who is editing Olmert’s memoirs on behalf of the publisher, over the incident.

Last week, the former premier was released from Tel Hashomer Hospital after being admitted for chest pains a week earlier.

After a photo of Olmert in a hospital gown, eating with plastic cutlery, surfaced on Friday last week, both Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that it was time for him to be released from prison.

The Israel Prisons Service had refitted a wing in the Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle to house Olmert, keeping him in a separate complex shared only by carefully screened fellow convicts.

A prison official quoted by the Ynet news website on Saturday said the authorities would release “a sigh of relief” after Olmert was released, given the complicated security arrangements.

Other politicians have also served time in the prison, including former president Moshe Katsav and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

Also Sunday, former Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas was set to begin his two-year jail sentence for smuggling cellphones to convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.

As reported by The Times of Israel