Olmert loses prison privileges after classified info discovery

Olmert loses prison privileges after classified info discovery

Authorities investigate imprisoned ex-premier’s handling of alleged secret information as he writes memoir from his cell; Olmert denies wrongdoing

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)

Jailed former prime minister Ehud Olmert has lost some prison privileges as a punishment after his attorney was caught with classified material belonging to the former leader, Hebrew media reported on Saturday.

Among the privileges reportedly taken away were an upcoming furlough from prison and access to the public telephone.

On Thursday, his attorney was detained after being caught with classified materials following a visit to the jailed ex-premier in prison.

The former prime minister, who is serving a 27-month jail sentence on various corruption charges, has been writing a memoir in his cell. Since, as prime minister, he was privy to the Jewish state’s most closely guarded secrets, prison authorities have required he transfer all written materials to censors before handing them over to his publisher.

There were conflicting reports about the nature of the seized materials: Haaretz reported that these were pages written by Olmert which were not being sent to the censor as required. Channel 2, meanwhile, asserted that these were classified documents which Olmert had apparently kept at his home and which the lawyer had smuggled to his cell per his request.

Authorities were said to be looking into the matter.

Olmert’s attorneys denied the allegations, saying in a statement that “Olmert does not need any seal of approval for his sense of responsibility on matters pertaining to Israel’s national security.” They stressed that Olmert had provided the entire book to censors two months ago, and that “beyond the book no classified material has been sent out, transferred or published by Mr. Olmert.”

On Wednesday, Channel 2 had reported that the Israel Prisons Service did not plan to raise any objections to Olmert’s early release. This would increase the prospects of the parole board reducing the former prime minister’s sentence at an upcoming hearing.

Olmert began serving his sentence at Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle in February 2016. The law allows authorities to reduce sentences by a third for good behavior.

Olmert will have his first hearing before a parole board in June.

He was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, which has been characterized as among the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.

A bird's eye view of the Holyland complex, one of the first of Jerusalem's high-rise projects (Nati Shochat/Flash 90)
A bird’s eye view of the Holyland complex, one of the first of Jerusalem’s high-rise projects (Nati Shochat/Flash 90)

In March, President Reuven Rivlin rejected a pardon request for Olmert, saying there were no grounds to let the former premier go early.

He was sentenced in 2014 to six years in prison over two separate charges of taking bribes in the early 2000s, when he served as mayor of Jerusalem. That sentence was reduced to 18 months after the Supreme Court overturned one of his convictions on appeal.

In September 2016, Olmert was sentenced to an additional eight months behind bars for the so-called Talansky affair. In that case, a court upheld a 2015 conviction over his accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in exchange for political favors during his decade-long term as mayor from 1993 to 2003.

The Prisons Service refitted a wing in the Ramle prison to house the former prime minister, the first former premier to serve jail time, keeping him in a separate complex shared only by carefully screened fellow convicts.

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