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March 31, 2014 11:21 am

Ex-Prime Minster Olmert Faces Jail for Bribery, Judge Rebukes Claims of Witch Hunt

avatar by Michael Widlanski

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks a Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

An Israeli court convicted ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials  for taking bribes in the most far-reaching corruption trial in Israel’s history.

It was a stunning judicial rebuke of Olmert who claimed he was hounded from office, and he is likely to spend more time in jail than his three-plus years as prime minister. The maximum sentence for bribe-taking is ten years, but Olmert also faces jail time for other corruption charges and for alleged witness tampering.

“The man who was prime minister may turn out to have been the most corrupt and the most corruptive politician in the history of the State,” said Professor Moshe Negbi, the legal commentator for Voice of Israel radio.

Negbi spoke not just about the specific conviction of Olmert in the Holy Land real estate corruption trial, which covered a period when Olmert was Jerusalem’s mayor, but also about several recent trials and outstanding cases against Olmert when he was Trade Minister in Israel’s cabinet.

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“This is a pollution of the legal system,” Olmert’s lawyers had charged only yesterday after police presented a tape recording showing how Olmert had asked his former secretary of more than 30 years Shula Zaken, not to testify against him.

Ms. Zaken turned the tape and other materials over to police in an eleventh-hour plea bargain deal signed only days before Judge David Rosen gave his verdict Monday (March 31), but the judge did NOT delay his ruling and did NOT admit the new evidence into the case, as if to say he already had seen enough to convict Olmert.

Olmert and his defense team of highly paid attorneys and press agents had conducted a very aggressive campaign charging prosecutors were persecuting him for political reasons and that the State Attorney and the Inspector General had carried out a witch hunt.

In an apparent dismissal of the defense’s strategy,  Judge Rosen commended the prosecution for its conduct throughout the trial and called Olmert a liar for his claiming that he had not received bribes. The judge also convicted another former mayor, Uri Lupulianski and several other officials and several leading real estate developers.

Rosen acquitted a few of the defendants on some charges by reason of doubt.

Prosecutors will now bring additional witness tampering charges that carry a maximum penalty of 14 years. They are also appealing the light sentence and partial acquittal (by reason of doubt) from an earlier trial.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/ Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University, was strategic affairs advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, and is the Schusterman visiting professor at University of California, Irvine for 2013-14.

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