Israel's Olmert becomes first Israeli PM to go to prison

JERUSALEM - Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2006 amid the last serious round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

See Full Article

Olmert walked into the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel hours after he released a video making a last-minute plea to Israelis meant to salvage his legacy. In the video, he appealed on 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 recognize 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, 70, 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, a point he reiterated in his video statement Monday.

He was initially sentenced to six years in the case, but Israel's Supreme Court later upheld a lesser charge, reducing the sentence to 18 months. That was extended by a month earlier this year for pressuring a confidant not to testify in multiple legal cases against him.

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 U.S. supporter.

Israel has sent other senior officials to prison, including Moshe Katsav, who held the mostly ceremonial post of the country's president and who is now serving a seven-year prison term for rape.

But having the once popular Olmert behind bars was met with mixed emotions by many Israelis, who viewed the milestone as a proud moment for Israel's robust justice system but also a sorrowful one.

"When you look at a person like this, who is the salt of the earth, who is so talented, who is so charming, who is so capable, the fact that he is going to prison is something sad," Dan Margalit, a columnist with the daily Israel Hayom and a former Olmert confidant, told Israeli Army Radio.

Olmert was forced to resign in early 2009 amid the corruption allegations, which undermined the last serious round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and cleared the way for hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu's rise to power.

Olmert led his government to the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007 - launching more than a year of ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.

Olmert has said he made unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians during those talks - including a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank and an offer to place Jerusalem's Old City under international control - and was close to reaching an agreement at the time of his resignation.

Despite his lengthy career as a public servant, former prison officials said Olmert would be treated like any other inmate, despite being held in a special wing for security reasons.

Haim Glick, a former Israeli prison service official, told Israeli Channel 2 TV that Olmert would need to participate in roll call, be in his cell by 10 p.m. and have limited phone use.

"He will receive good treatment like the rest of the prisoners but not any better than them," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Activists plan to stay in North Dakota protest camps after blocking of pipeline route

    World News CTV News
    Activists and residents of the sprawling Dakota Access pipeline protest camp say they're pleased with the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to block the project route, but are committed to keep the camps running. Source
  • Homeless prostitute planned to eat penis of man found dead in tub with genitals chopped off: Report

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — A 32-year-old homeless prostitute has been charged in the death of a 68-year-old man who was found dead in a New York City bathroom with his penis chopped off, according to a report by The New York Daily News. Source
  • Trump defends call with Taiwan's leader

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - President-elect Donald Trump continued to use Twitter Sunday to defend his engagement with the leader of Taiwan, a breach of diplomatic protocol as the U.S. shifted recognition from Taiwan to China nearly 40 years ago. Source
  • More people should engage in politics so 'no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians,' Justin Trudeau says

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadians from different backgrounds should get involved in politics so that "no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians or any other group," says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.You can watch and read more about the discussion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday at CBC.ca/Toronto. Source
  • University class takes on case of B.C. woman stripped of citizenship

    Canada News CTV News
    SQUAMISH, B.C. -- A group of university students in Squamish, B.C., is hoping their school work will help change the life of a woman whose Canadian citizenship was stripped under a little-known policy. Leanne Roderick, an instructor at Quest University, wanted the 20 students in her democracy and justice class to meet someone who was really wrestling with representative democracy in Canada, so she introduced them to a local woman named Byrdie Funk. Source
  • Accused hatchet-killing teen chatted about plan to murder grandfather on Kik: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina teenager charged with killing his grandfather with a hatchet discussed the crime in advance with a still-unidentified person on a cellphone messaging app, law enforcement authorities said in an affidavit. According to a detective’s affidavit for a search warrant, the then-15-year-old discussed his forming plans before attacking Joseph Emmett Naulty, 63, in August, the Fayetteville Observer reported. Source
  • New Zealand PM John Key resigns after 8 years as leader

    World News CBC News
    New Zealand's popular Prime Minister John Key stunned the nation on Monday when he announced he was resigning after eight years as leader. Key had been widely expected to contest his fourth general election next year. Source
  • New Zealand Prime Minister John Key resigns after 8 years

    World News CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's popular Prime Minister John Key stunned the nation on Monday when he announced he was resigning after eight years as leader. Key had been widely expected to contest his fourth general election next year. Source
  • Heartbroken family set to return to Medicine Hat without baby son's stolen ashes [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    It’s been a traumatic weekend for a Medicine Hat family, who will be going back home heartbroken after their baby’s ashes stolen over the weekend in Calgary remain missing. Laura Hudson and her husband Nathan issued a desperate plea for help Saturday after she discovered her purse, which contained the ashes of her late son Hunter, had been stolen from a Calgary hotel bar the night before. Source
  • Twitter account belonging to 7-year-old Syrian girl disappears

    World News CTV News
    For months, 7-year-old Bana Alabed has turned to Twitter to share harrowing scenes and stories from her war-ravaged hometown of Aleppo, Syria. On Sunday, with the city under fierce attack from Russian warplanes and Syrian government forces, her account disappeared. Source