Addressing the court in a sentencing hearing for the Holyland corruption case on Tuesday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert firmly denied accepting bribes, and said he would appeal to the Supreme Court to retry his case.
Olmert was convicted last month of multiple bribery charges, alongside nine other former senior officials and businessmen who were involved in the development of a massive Jerusalem housing project called Holyland while Olmert was mayor of the city over a decade ago.
“I never requested and never received bribes, neither directly nor indirectly, neither me nor my close friends nor my relatives,” he told the Tel Aviv District Court.
His guilty verdict in the high-profile graft case was based on a “fundamental error,” he claimed.
Olmert said that he would appeal his case to the Supreme Court, which he said he believed “will try to see the full picture and reach the conclusion that I voiced earlier: that I never requested and never received bribes.”
The ex-premier also said he was proud of his accomplishments as mayor of Jerusalem. Under his stewardship, “the city blossomed and stood resolutely and with unparalleled courage, in part due to the leadership during its crises,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Olmert’s attorney requested on behalf of his client that the judge refrain from sentencing Olmert to jail time, arguing that similar bribery cases resulted in a maximum of 18 months of incarceration.
The state had recommended a six-year sentence and NIS 1.3 million (some $370,000) in fines for the former prime minister.
But Olmert’s “severe and intolerable” social degradation in the media in past years was punishment enough, Eli Zohar said.
He also denounced Shula Zaken, Olmert’s ex-aide turned state witness, for creating “an unbearable media circus that substantially damaged the legal proceedings.”
Olmert’s sentence will be handed down on May 13, as will the sentences of the other convicts bar Zaken. Hearings for her sentencing will begin on May 14.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.