Stas Misezhnikov, who served as tourism minister as a member of the Yisrael Beytenu party from 2009 to 2013, was released from prison on Sunday, ahead of the Jewish new year, after serving almost nine months of a 15-month term for breach of trust.
He was given a furlough Saturday to spend with his family, before returning Sunday morning to be formally released from Hermon Prison. As he left, he wished prison staff and onlookers a happy new year.
He was convicted of securing his ministry’s funding for a student festival in 2012 in the southern port city of Eilat, and then asking organizers to employ his romantic partner in return. Organizers complied, paying her tens of thousands of shekels during that period. The ministry’s funding came to some NIS 1 million ($270,000).
He pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors and was jailed in December 2017. He also received a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 70,000 (just under $20,000).
In January, he appealed for clemency, under special rules to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, which give the president, together with the justice minister, the authority to grant pardons to prisoners meeting specific criteria.
However, the appeal was rejected in July.
In Misezhnikov’s case, the decision not to ease the sentence was made because of what the president described in a statement as “serious violations of integrity by a very senior public official who, because of their nature, is unsuitable for inclusion in the special outline formulated by the president and the justice minister in honor of the State of Israel’s 70th year.”