Israeli court convicts ex-PM Olmert in bribery case

تم نشره في Mon 31 March / Mar 2014. 02:05 PM - آخر تعديل في Mon 31 March / Mar 2014. 02:06 PM
  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (2nd R) waits to hear his verdict at the Tel Aviv District Court March 31, 2014 (Reuters)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM/TEL AVIV - An Israeli court convicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert of bribery on Monday over his ties to a real-estate deal while in his previous post of Jerusalem mayor, likely ending any prospect of a political comeback.

Olmert, a centrist credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians, had denied wrongdoing in the Holyland apartment complex deal, as well as other corruption allegations that forced his resignation as premier in 2008.

Olmert, 68, who could face up to 10 years in prison when sentencing is handed down at a later date, will appeal the verdict, his spokesman Jacob Galanti said.

In 2012, Olmert was acquitted of major charges in separate cases involving his links to a U.S. businessman while he was Jerusalem mayor and an Israeli cabinet minister.

Prosecutors alleged he accepted more than $228,000 from developers of the Holyland project.

Handing down the conviction on Monday, Judge David Rozen told Tel Aviv District Court the case "exposed governance that grew more corrupt and rotten over the years", with bribes paid to public officials.

In recent months, Olmert has been critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies toward the Palestinians and confronting Iran's nuclear program, fuelling speculation he intended to return to politics.

A lawyer by profession, Olmert began his political career in the 1970s as a legislator who targeted organized crime in Israel.

He served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, staying in office in a caretaker capacity until after a general election that brought right-winger Netanyahu to power.

As prime minister, Olmert waged war against militants in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.

He said he had achieved significant progress in talks with the Palestinians aimed at securing a final peace deal, offering an Israeli withdrawal from much of the occupied West Bank. But no agreement was reached.

Current U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinians have faltered, with Washington struggling to keep negotiations going beyond an original April 29 target date for a deal.

Olmert was among 13 defendants in the Holyland case, which revolved around the construction of a hulking, hilltop housing project widely regarded as Jerusalem's worst eyesore.

One of the accused, Shula Zaken, was Olmert's former long-time aide who last week offered to turn state's witness against him.

 

FACTBOX: CRIME AND CORRUPTION AMONG ISRAEL'S POLITICAL ELITE

 

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty of corruption on Monday in a case revolving around a contested real estate deal during his time as Jerusalem mayor.

Here is a look at some prominent Israeli politicians who were convicted of offences or forced to leave office because of indiscretions.

* EHUD OLMERT: Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and became prime minister in 2006, but quit two years later when various allegations of corruption surfaced. He was largely acquitted in one major case in 2012, but any hopes he might have had of a political comeback have been killed off by Monday's bribery conviction tied to the construction of the Holyland apartment complex in Jerusalem. Another former mayor of the city, Uri Lupolianski, was also found guilty in the same case.

* MOSHE KATSAV: The former Israeli president has been serving a seven-year prison term since December 2011 after being convicted of raping an aide when he was a cabinet minister in the late 1990s. He was also convicted of molesting or sexually harassing two other women employees during his 2000-2007 term as president.

* TZACHI HANEGBI: An influential legislator and confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hanegbi was convicted of perjury in July 2010. A court determined that his offence involved "moral turpitude", effectively stripping him of his seat in parliament under Israeli law. He returned to parliament last year.

* AVRAHAM HIRCHSON: A former finance minister, Hirchson was jailed for five years and five months in June 2009 for financial offences that included stealing more than $500,000 from a trade union he led before becoming a cabinet member in 2006.

* SHLOMO BENIZRI: A former cabinet minister and member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Benizri was sentenced in June 2009 to four years in prison for taking bribes. He was freed in March 2012.

* HAIM RAMON: A former justice minister once touted as a possible future prime minister, Ramon was convicted of sexual misconduct in 2007 for forcibly kissing a woman soldier who served in the office of then-prime minister Olmert. He was sentenced to community service and returned to politics, serving in Olmert's cabinet and as a lawmaker until June 2009.

* GONEN SEGEV: Segev, a physician who served as energy and infrastructure minister from 1992 to 1995, was jailed for five years in 2005 for trying to smuggle more than 30,000 ecstasy tablets into Israel from the Netherlands and forging a diplomatic passport. He was released in 2007.

* YITZHAK MORDECHAI: A former defense minister, once a rising star in Israeli politics and a retired general, Mordechai was sentenced to an 18-month suspended jail term in 2001 after being convicted of two counts of sexual assault during his 32-year army career.

* EZER WEIZMAN: The popular Weizman resigned as president in 2000, three years before his second term was due to end, after the attorney-general found he had accepted more than $300,000 in cash gifts from businessmen from 1985 to 1993. Weizman was not put on trial. He died in 2005.

* ARYEH DERI: Then-leader of Shas, Deri was ordered by the Supreme Court to resign from the cabinet in 1993 over corruption charges. He was sentenced in 1999 to three years in prison. He was reinstated as head of Shas in 2012 and returned to parliament last year. (Reuters)

Comment