Former Israel PM Ehud Olmert granted early release from prison
Ehud Olmert, the former Israel prime minister serving a 27-month prison term for corruption, has been granted parole, one of his lawyers said.
Israel Radio reported that Olmert, 71, could be freed as early as Sunday after a parole board reduced his sentence by a third, a common practice for prisoners who have committed non-violent crimes.
But the release could be delayed if prosecutors launch an appeal, Shani Eluz, a lawyer for Olmert, said.
“He was very excited. He was very happy,” Eli Zohar, another Olmert lawyer, said of the parole decision. “He hopes very much the prosecution service will not ask to delay his release.”
Olmert was found guilty in 2014 of accepting bribes from real estate developers when he was Jerusalem mayor, before his 2006-09 term as prime minister and leader of a centrist political party.
During his stint as PM, he claimed significant progress in talks with the Palestinians on securing a peace deal, offering an Israeli withdrawal from much of the occupied West Bank. But no agreement was reached.
Olmert, a former lawyer, began his political career in the 1970s as a rightwing lawmaker who targeted organised crime. As prime minister, he waged war against militants in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.
His initial six-year sentence – the judge described his corruption offences as tantamount to treason – was cut to 18 months on appeal, but another month was subsequently added over obstruction of justice charges.
Olmert’s term was ultimately lengthened to 27 months after he was convicted in a separate case involving cash payments from a US businessman.
In recent weeks, Olmert was again making headlines after police raided a publishing house over suspicions a memoir he was writing contained security secrets that had not been cleared by the military censor.
Olmert was taken to hospital last week with chest pains, Israeli media reported. He was returned to prison on Tuesday after tests and treatment.
Any attempt at a political comeback seems unlikely. A court found that his crimes entailed “moral turpitude”, which under Israeli law would preclude Olmert from running for public office for seven years after his release.