Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday reduced former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s prison sentence for a sweeping bribery scandal from six years to 18 months, handing him a moral victory even as he prepares to become the first former Israeli head of government to be imprisoned.
In its ruling, the court overturned the main bribery charge against Olmert but upheld a lesser charge. The 70-year-old ex-premier was ordered to begin serving his sentence on 15 February.
Olmert was convicted in March 2014 and sentenced to six years in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a controversial property project in Jerusalem. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a trade minister, before he became prime minister in 2006.
Olmert has denied any wrongdoing and was allowed to stay out of prison until the verdict on his appeal was delivered.
After the decision, Olmert said he was “satisfied” about his partial exoneration. Clearly relieved, Olmert said it was still a “hard day” but that he accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“A stone has been lifted from my heart,” he said. “I said in the past, I was never offered and I never took a bribe. And I say that again today.”
The ruling marks a dramatic climax of the lengthy legal saga of a man who only years earlier led the country and hoped to bring about a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Olmert was forced to resign in early 2009 amid the corruption allegations.