Israel, Jerusalem: Israel’s former prime minister (PM) Ehud Olmert has started his 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2009 during the last serious round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Olmert walked into the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel hours after he released a video making a last-minute plea to Israelis. In the video, meant to salvage his legacy, he appealed to the nation to remember his peacemaking efforts as leader and denied any wrongdoing in the bribery conviction against him.
Olmert, 70, was sentenced to 19 months in a prison on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, where other politicians have been imprisoned, including several ministers as well as former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who was charged with sexual offences, EFE news reported. Olmert was previously sentenced to 18 months in prison last December for taking bribes over the Holyland affair, complex of luxury apartments in Jerusalem which was approved during his time as mayor between 1993 and 2003.
The former premier, who led Israel from 2006 to 2009, is still involved in two other cases, including the so-called Talansky case, in which he was convicted and sentenced to eight other months in prison. Accordingly, the Supreme Court considers that Olmert stay in prison could see further extensions. Unlike other prisoners, Olmert will not have contact with many of the inmates. Olmert will be placed in the so-called Ward 10 or the “VIP wing” at the Ma’asiyahu Prison. Prison officials told Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Olmert will receive a special security treatment to ensure that he cannot escape, and for security reasons as well.