Former PM Olmert to report to prison Monday morning

Sentenced to 19 months for taking bribes and obstructing justice, he spends his last day of freedom with friends and family

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the press at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Amit Shabi/Pool)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the press at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Amit Shabi/Pool)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will start serving 19-months at Ramle’s Ma’asiyahu Prison Monday morning at 10 a.m. after being found guilty on two separate bribery charges in 2014.

Olmert will be the country’s first former prime minister to go to prison. He was sentenced in 2014 to six years in prison on two separate charges of taking bribes in the early 2000s, as mayor of Jerusalem, in connection with the construction of Jerusalem’s massive Holyland residential complex. But in December, the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to 18 months in prison and exonerated him on one of the charges.

The former prime minister spent his last day of freedom Sunday with friends and family at home in Motza, just outside Jerusalem, and reportedly spoke to citizens and Israeli and world leaders on the phone over the course of the day, Channel 10 reported.

“He devoted his time to saying goodbye to friends and asked them to wait for him to return,” a friend of Olmert told Ynet ahead of the former prime minister’s incarceration.

After processing at the prison, he’ll undergo psychological evaluation and then be jailed at in “Ward 10,” a separate prison area that does not require contact with other inmates, in a cell along with two others, likely others found guilty in the Holyland case. Olmert will first be up for 24 hours of leave from prison after completing a third of his 19-month sentence.

During the prime minister’s first days behind bars he’ll be under close watch, a former head of the prison said.

“We need to ensure his security and health, to make sure and prevent any concern of a suicide attempt,” a prison service official told Ynet. “Nobody wants something to happen to a former prime minister on their watch, while we’re responsible for him and his needs.”

As an ex-premier, privy to the state’s top secrets, the Prisons Service determined that Olmert cannot be allowed to come into contact with convicted members of organized crime groups and those who have committed national security crimes. Last year, the IPS created “Ward 10” and vetted Olmert’s potential cellmates to ensure they do not pose a security threat to him.

Also serving time in Ward 10 is former president Moshe Katsav, who is five years in to a seven-year term for rape, sexual assault and harassment of a number of female employees while tourism minister and president.

Last week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court tacked another month behind bars on to Olmert’s prison sentence, after the former prime minister pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in various cases against him.

The plea deal represented the first admission of wrongdoing by the former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor, who has consistently maintained his innocence throughout eight years of legal proceedings in various graft cases.

Olmert admitted to trying to persuade his former secretary Shula Zaken not to testify against him in the Holyland case and a second affair involving cash infusions from US businessman Morris Talansky, and of trying to buy her silence. Zaken has already served out her prison sentence for her part in the Holyland affair.

The Ma'asiyahu Prison complex in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy/Israel Prisons Service)
The Ma’asiyahu Prison complex in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy/Israel Prisons Service)

In secret recordings made by Zaken, Olmert can be heard saying: “If I am not acquitted, no one will be acquitted.” The recordings also reveal he offered to pick up her legal bill.

The plea deal represented a last-ditch effort by Olmert’s legal team to avoid further jail time after sentences were handed down in the Holyland and Talansky affairs. His eight-month sentence in the Talansky affair is still up for debate in the Supreme Court.

According to reports, Olmert’s attorney is working to reach an agreement with the state prosecution that would see the Talansky sentence withdrawn, or at least that it run concurrently with the 18-month prison term in the Holyland affair.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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