Israel’s ex-PM Olmert released from prison

The parole board of Israel's Prison Service has granted Olmert early release from prison. Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati says the board granted Olmert's request to reduce a third of his 27-month incarceration sentence.

By: AP | Jerusalem | Published:July 2, 2017 12:01 pm
Israel, Ehud Olmert, Ehud Olmert released, Ehud Olmert jail, Ehud Olmert prison, latest world news Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left, exits prison after his sentence, in Ramle, Israel, Sunday, July 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was released from prison early Sunday days after a parole board granted him early release from his 27-month corruption sentence. Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati said Olmert, 71, was whisked away by Israel’s security service after his release and driven home after serving 16 months.

He said the terms of Olmert’s early release stipulate that for the next few months the former prime minister has to do volunteer work, must appear before police twice a month and cannot give interviews to the media or leave the country.

He added that President Reuven Rivlin could relieve him of the parole restrictions.

Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before he became premier in 2006.

His departure from office in 2009 ended the last major Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Olmert was a longtime fixture in Israel’s hawkish right wing when he began taking a dramatically more conciliatory line toward the Palestinians more than a decade ago. He played a leading role in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and became prime minister in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke. He resigned amid a corruption scandal that clouded his administration.

A gifted orator, Olmert broke a series of taboos while in office — warning that Israel could become like apartheid South Africa if it continued its occupation of the Palestinians and expressing readiness to relinquish parts of Jerusalem under a peace deal.

He led his government to the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007 — launching more than a year of ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful U.S.-brokered talks.

Olmert has said he made unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians — including a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank and an offer to place Jerusalem’s Old City under international control — and was close to reaching an agreement at the time of his resignation.

Olmert was rushed to hospital with chest pains last month, but doctors ruled out a heart attack. A few days before that, Israel’s Justice Ministry asked the police to investigate whether Olmert committed a “criminal offense” while behind bars.

It said a book Olmert is writing touches on “sensitive security issues” and that his lawyer was caught leaving the prison with a chapter on “secret operations” not approved by the censor for publication. Police searched the publishing house of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, but not the paper itself, over the incident.

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