Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert Begins Prison Term; “Confirmation of Israeli Democracy”
Ramla (TPS) – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert entered Maasiyahu Prison at 10:00 AM on Monday, February 15 to start serving a sentence of at least 19 months. Olmert released a three-minute video statement before becoming a prisoner in which he denied the charges against him and said that he accepts the sentence “with a heavy heart.”
Olmert, who was elected prime minister in 2006 and served in that role until 2009, is the first prime minister in Israeli history to serve a prison term. He was first charged in 2009 with fraud, bribery, tax evasion, and breach of trust in a number of different corruption cases. He was convicted of breach of trust in 2012 and of bribery in May, 2014.
Olmert was originally sentenced to six years in prison, but the Supreme Court shortened the sentence to 18 months in December, 2015. The court added an extra month of imprisonment on February 10 for obstruction of justice. Olmert had also been sentenced to an additional eight-month prison sentence in yet another corruption case, but he has appealed that decision, and the Supreme Court has not yet made a decision regarding that appeal.
Maasiyahu Prison is located in the central Israeli city of Ramla. Olmert will serve his term in Wing 10, a high-security wing designated for prisoners who have held positions of influence such as judges, policemen, and public figures.
Olmert released a video statement on the morning of February 15. “I will enter prison and start to serve my sentence this morning,” he said to the camera. “During my term as prime minister, I had been granted responsibility for the security of all citizens of Israel yet today I am about to be locked up behind bars. You can probably imagine how strange and hurtful this change is for me, my family, friends, and supporters.”
“It is important for me to say once more at this time, as I said in court and outside it, that I completely deny the bribery charges attributed to me,” said Olmert. “I also feel the need to emphasize that none of the charges of which I was convicted are ascribed to my term as prime minister.”
“It was a great honor to serve the public as a member of Knesset, as mayor of Jerusalem, and as prime minister of Israel,” he added. “I also made mistakes as part of my diverse activities, even though they were not criminal in my opinion. I am paying a high price today, perhaps too high, for these mistakes. I accept the sentence with a heavy heart. Nobody stands above the law.”
Olmert described his prison sentence as “an exceptional and severe measure, which some will view as a confirmation of Israeli democracy. At the same time, I wish to raise the possibility that my legal case has snowballed for various other reasons that are not merely juridical.”
“I am presented today with a difficult challenge and I embrace it with great sadness,” concluded Olmert. “But the love, support, and solidarity I have been shown in the last several days strengthen me while I face the path that awaits me.”