Middle East

Israel ex-PM Ehud Olmert jailed for six years for bribery

Ehud Olmert leaves the Tel Aviv District Court on 13 May 2014
Image caption Ehud Olmert was forced to resign as prime minister amid a flurry of separate corruption allegations

A court in Israel has sentenced former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for bribery.

The judge also fined him 1m shekels ($289,000; £171,000) and ordered that 560,000 shekels in assets be seized.

Olmert's lawyers said he was innocent and would appeal. If he is unsuccessful he will become the first former head of government in Israel to be jailed.

The 68-year-old was convicted in March over a real estate deal that took place while he served as mayor of Jerusalem.

The Tel Aviv District Court found he had accepted a 500,000-shekel ($145,000; £86,000) bribe from the developers of a controversial apartment complex, known as Holyland, for which planning and zoning laws were changed, and another 60,000 shekels for a separate project.

Ten other government officials and businesspeople were convicted alongside Olmert. The sentences handed down on Tuesday against six of them ranged from three to seven years.

'Feeling of disgust'

Judge David Rozen said bribery offences "contaminate the public sector" and "cause the structure of government to collapse".

He added: "People who receive bribes give rise to a feeling of disgust and cause the public to despise the state's institutions. The taker of bribes is like a traitor who betrays the public trust that was given to him - trust without which a proper public service cannot be maintained."

The judge said Olmert had made a "large contribution to the country".

But he described his offences as "noxious" and said he was guilty of "moral turpitude", which under Israeli law would preclude him from running for public office for seven years after finishing his jail term.

Olmert reportedly stood quietly in the courtroom with his head bowed. His lawyers had sought a non-custodial sentence.

The judge told him to report to prison on 1 September, effectively giving his lawyers time to lodge their planned appeal.

"He did not take a bribe. He did not receive a bribe. He sees himself as innocent, and it is with those feelings that he will be going to the Supreme Court to appeal," Olmert's lawyer, Eli Zohar, told reporters.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who served as Olmert's deputy prime minister and foreign minister said: "It is a difficult day when a former prime minister is sentenced."

"I have complete trust in the court and law enforcement officials, and the public should as well."

Olmert served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, until a flurry of corruption allegations led to his resignation.

He was acquitted of most of the major charges eventually brought against him by prosecutors but was also found guilty of breach of trust and given a one-year suspended jail sentence.

He was found to have made decision when he was minister of trade and industry that benefited clients of a close associate.

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