Former Israeli PM Olmert Sentenced to Six Years
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was given a six-year jail sentence on Tuesday, plus a two-year suspended sentence and a 1.5 million shekel (more than $400,000) fine.
Several years ago a former Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, was convicted of sexual crimes and is currently serving time in prison. Other government ministers have served time as well.
But Tuesday's sentencing marks the first time a prime minister has been given a jail term.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen did not mince words during the hearing, saying government officials who take bribes "pollute public service" and cause government structure to collapse.
Olmert was convicted of two counts of bribery in the Holyland real estate trial -- a controversial building project in Jerusalem at the time he was mayor of the city. The judge also revoked 10 percent of his pension as a former mayor of Jerusalem saying his crimes represent moral turpitude.
The former prime minister maintained his innocence right down to the wire, releasing a statement that called it "a sad day on which a severe and unjust verdict is to be handed down to an innocent man."
"I never asked [for] or received a bribe, neither directly nor indirectly, not for myself or for those close to me or my relatives," the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Olmert during Tuesday's sentencing.
Olmert's lawyer, Eli Zohar, called the punishment "very severe" and said they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Former National Security Advisor Uzi Arad told journalists on Tuesday it was "sad" that a former prime minister of Israel would be sitting in jail. He also said he hoped it would have a deterrent effect.
Tel Aviv residents said they were glad that justice was served.
"The justice system is finally doing something about a politician," Ben Barr said. "You think that they are above the law, they think that they are exempt from all consequences and now there's some consequences."
"We have an ex-president sitting in jail, we have ex-ministers sitting in jail, and Olmert did a lot for this country, nobody takes it from him, but what he did was wrong, it was criminal," Aviram Rahimi. "And unfortunately for him, he will have to serve his punishment, his sentence, that's it."
Ten other public officials and businessmen, including former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner, were convicted of bribery and money laundering.
On Tuesday, six others received stiff sentences ranging from three-and-a-half to eight years.