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Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert handed six-year jail sentence

Ehud Olmert. Judge David Rozen found him guilty of two bribery charges and said he accepted 560,000 shekels from developers. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

Israel‘s former prime minister Ehud Olmert has been jailed for six years on charges of bribery by a court in Tel Aviv, becoming the most senior Israeli politician to receive a criminal conviction.

Olmert, 68, and a number of codefendants were jailed after being found guilty of receiving millions of dollars from the Holyland Development Company – the developers behind the Holyland luxury real estate project in Jerusalem.

The charges – which Olmert has always denied – relate to 2006, when he was mayor of Jerusalem.

Olmert’s lawyers are likely to appeal against Tuesday’s sentence and are expected to ask the Tel Aviv court that he remain on bail until then.

In a statement issued before the sentencing, the former prime minister appeared to anticipate a bad result. “This is a sad day, on which a severe and unjust verdict is to be handed down to an innocent man,” he said.

Two years ago, Olmert was acquitted of separate corruption charges relating to his dealings with a US businessman, which had forced his resignation as prime minister in 2008.

The result convinced many that the once-popular leader – a centrist remembered for his efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, but also as the architect of wars in Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008 – could re-enter politics.

But those hopes were dashed at the end of his two-year trial over the “Holyland affair” on 31 March, when the judge found him guilty of taking $144,000 from the developers of the project and $17,000 in a separate real estate deal.

Speaking in court on Tuesday, Rozen told Olmert that he had committed “one of the worst crimes under law” and described bribe-takers as traitors whose actions “polluted civil service”, local media reported from the courtroom.

Nine other officials were sentenced to between three and seven years in jail on Tuesday.

The former prime minister is not the first Israeli politician to find himself in court over graft charges. In 2009, the former finance minister Avraham Hirschson was jailed for five years for stealing about $500,000 from the National Labor Federation.

Source:  in Tel Aviv via The Guardian

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