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High Court blocks release of Israeli air force embezzler

JERUSALEM, April 14 (JTA) — Israel’s High Court of Justice has blocked the early release of a former Air Force general who was convicted of embezzling $12 million when he was overseeing military procurements from the United States. Ruling on petitions against the early release of Rami Dotan, the court ordered the military parole board to give the army prosecutor a chance to weigh in on the matter before releasing Dotan. A furor erupted last month in Israel over the parole board’s decision to free Dotan next week. Dotan, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison, has served more than six years. According to his conviction, Dotan reported higher purchase prices than the actual costs, and pocketed the differences. Some of the purchases were made with funds provided by U.S. military assistance to Israel. Dotan pleaded guilty in 1991 to 12 counts including fraud, taking bribes and breach of public trust in connection to the arms purchases from the United States. He was convicted, sentenced to prison and demoted to the rank of private. He also promised to pay back $10 million he embezzled from the Defense Ministry. In its decision last month to free Dotan, the military parole board cited two minor strokes Dotan had suffered and said that he was chronically ill. The decision prompted angry responses in political and defense circles. Security officials voiced concern that after his release, Dotan would approach American officials and argue that Israel was behind his actions. Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein last week expressed his opposition to Dotan’s early release. In a written statement to the parole board, Rubinstein said the board had not sufficiently considered the gravity of Dotan’s crime and that his relative light sentence had already taken his health into account.