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Monday, September 24, 2012

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Gets Probation Fine

Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was handed a suspended sentence on Monday and fined, several months after he was convicted of one charge of breach of trust for decisions he made while serving as industry, trade and labor minister.

In July, the court found him to be improperly involved in allocations by the ministry's Investment Center to companies that were represented by Uri Messer, a close personal friend and former business partner of Olmert's.

At a hearing earlier this month the state asked for a sentence of six months of community service, as well as a fine and probation. While Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel spelled out to the court the aggravating circumstances of Olmert's conduct, including the degree of his closeness to Messer, Olmert's high position and the fact that there was more than one such instance of conflict of interest. Abarbanel also cited Olmert's conduct during interviews with the investigators and in the course of the trial as a reason to issue a harsh sentence.

Olmert's defense team had asked the court not to impose any sentence beyond his suffering as a result of this trial and the other offenses for which he was indicted and then acquitted. "The institution of revenge is obsolete," defense attorney Navot Tel-Zur said at Olmert's sentencing hearing, adding, "We ask the court to be satisfied with the personal and public price that Mr. Olmert has already paid."

Olmert also made a personal appeal for leniency in sentencing: "For more than a few years black smoke has swirled around my life and that of my family and friends," Olmert told the court. "The worst accusations were made against me. A media campaign of unprecedented size and intensity, in Israel and abroad ... I accept your conviction. I understand your remarks and agree to them ... What was, will not be in the future, whatever path I take," Olmert said.

Olmert's attorneys have already said they do not plan to appeal the conviction. The prosecution has the right to appeal the verdict within 45 days.

The state has 45 days to appeal Olmert's acquittal of the two major charges against him in that court, in the so-called Rishon Tours and Talansky cases.

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