Olmert to be consigned to ‘VIP’ prison wing, under 24-hour surveillance
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Olmert to be consigned to ‘VIP’ prison wing, under 24-hour surveillance

In Ward 10 of Ma’asiyahu, disgraced former PM will have vetted cellmates, separate facilities, and bedsheets from home

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)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is set to begin his 18-month prison sentence on February 15 at Lod’s Ma’asiyahu Prison.

The date marks the first time an Israeli prime minister will serve time in prison. As an ex-premier, privy to the state’s best-kept secrets, the Prisons Service determined that Olmert cannot be allowed to come into contact with convicted members of organized crime groups and those who committed national security crimes.

The result: Ward 10, the so-called “VIP wing” at Ma’asiyahu.

Over the past year, the Israel Prisons Service has worked to transform Ward 10 into a separate prison area that does not require contact with other inmates.

According to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Olmert will spend his prison term with two cellmates vetted by the IPS to ensure they pose no threat to him. Six three-person cells make up the entirety of Ward 10, which has its own bathrooms and showers separate from the main prison.

Olmert won’t joint other prisoners for work, cultural or educational events.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Gil Yohanan/Pool)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Gil Yohanan/Pool)

Ward 10 also has its own clubhouse, dining room, meeting rooms for attorney and family visits, and yard.

Olmert’s cell will have a television. He is allowed one newspaper subscription, a DVD player, up to seven books in his cell at any one time, and, perhaps most importantly, bedsheets and a pillow from home.

He will be under 24-hour video surveillance.

Olmert was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in a real estate corruption case officials have characterized as the largest in Israel’s history.

While it struck down the main bribery conviction for Olmert’s part in the so-called Holyland scandal, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a more minor bribery conviction in the case, reducing the former prime minister’s sentence from six years to 18 months. He and others whose convictions were upheld in the case will begin to serve their sentences on February 15.

Olmert, 70, was convicted in 2014 of accepting bribes during the period when he served as mayor of Jerusalem and as minister of industry and trade, in exchange for helping win municipal approval for the Holyland residential development near the capital’s southwestern Malha neighborhood.

Olmert faces an additional eight-month prison sentence in the so-called Talansky affair, which was also delayed until his Holyland appeal options were exhausted. He was found guilty earlier this year of accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in exchange for political favors during his decade-long stint as mayor of Jerusalem.

Former president Moshe Katsav is serving a seven-year term at the same jail for rape, sexual assault and harassment of a number of female employees while tourism minister and president.

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