Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has started a 19 month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice. He is the first former Israeli prime minister to serve jail time.
Olmert arrived Monday morning at the Maasiyahu prison, where he will be confined in bloc 10, dubbed by the Israeli media as the “VIP wing.”
“Life is offering me today no simple test. I go toward it with great sadness,” Olmert said in a video message from his home before a convoy took him to prison.
The 70-year old who served as premier from 2006 until 2009 said he had “made mistakes” but argued his actions were “not criminal.” He denies taking bribes.
Olmert was convicted in 2014 for taking kickbacks in a real estate re-zoning scandal when he was mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003. Several other high-level officials were also implicated in the so-called Holyland real estate affair.
Olmert’s original six-year prison sentence wasreduced to 18 months by the Supreme Court, but the former premier was given an additional month last week for obstruction of justice.
That conviction related to attempts by Olmert to convince his former secretary, Shula Zaken, to keep quiet and not accept a plea deal in a separate corruption case. After initially agreeing, Zaken later produced recordings showing Olmert had tried to persuade her not to cooperate with prosecutors.
As prime minister, Olmert relaunched peace talks with the Palestinians, after they were frozen by Olmert’s predecessor Ariel Sharon. Some have suggested that the charges against Olmert came about because the Israeli far-right opposed his overtures towards the Palestinians.
Given Olmert’s knowledge of state secrets he will receive special treatment and security needs. Former president Moshe Katsav is also serving time at Maasiyahu on sexual harassment and rape charges.
cw/xx (AFP, AP, dpa)