Ehud Olmert becomes first former Israeli prime minister put behind bars

By Ed Adamczyk   |   Feb. 15, 2016 at 8:36 AM
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RAMLE , Israel, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began a 19-month prison sentence Monday for bribery and obstruction of justice, making him the first premier in the country to be put behind bars.

Olmert, 70, arrived at Ma'asiyahu Prison in Ramle, Israel, near Tel Aviv to serve his 19-month sentence. He was convicted in 2014 of taking bribes while mayor of Jerusalem. The bribes were largely in connection with construction of a massive apartment complex known as Holyland.

His six-year sentence was reduced to 18 months, and he was exonerated of one conviction in 2015 by the Israeli Supreme Court. The court upheld a lesser bribery conviction unrelated to the real estate project.

He was also sentenced to an eight-month prison term in May for fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, which is under appeal, and an extra month in the bribery case.

Olmert, prime minister from 2006 to 2009, is the first former Israeli prime minister to be incarcerated.

Prior to his arrival at the prison, Olmert released a video admitting he had made mistakes.

"I want to say again what I said inside the court and outside: that I categorically deny the charges relating to bribery attributed to me. I accept the sentence with a very heavy heart. Nobody stands above the law," he said.

As an inmate privy to state secrets, he will be held in the newly created Ward 10 of the prison to keep him from interacting with convicted organized crime members and those who are jailed for committing national security crimes. His potential cellmates have been vetted to ensure they are not security threats.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, serving a seven-year sentence for rape, sexual assault and harassment, is housed in the prison's Ward 10.

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