Ehud Olmert leaves prison, requests lifting of parole restrictions


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left prison on early release and then submitted a request to have his parole restrictions removed.

Olmert was freed early Sunday morning after serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence, three days after the prison parole board granted him early release for good behavior.

Later Sunday morning, Olmert appealed to President Reuven Rivlin with his request about the parole restrictions. Among them are a prohibition on leaving the country, meeting with a parole officer twice a week and meeting weekly with a Prisons Service social worker.

The restrictions are set to be lifted next May, when Olmert would have completed his original sentence. Failure to adhere to the parole restrictions could result in reincarceration.

Olmert was writing an autobiography while in prison that may have touched on sensitive security issues. Last month, one of his attorneys was caught leaving the prison with a chapter that discussed a top secret security-related incident that the military censor has banned in the past for publication.

Upon his release, Olmert’s attorney told Ynet that the ex-prime minister would volunteer at two Israel food recovery NGOs, Ezer Lemarpe and Leket. The volunteer work is not a condition of his release.

Olmert was the first Israeli prime minister to serve time in prison and be sentenced to jail. He resigned his post in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted in multiple corruption scandals.

Olmert served his prison sentence for receiving bribes in the Holyland affair in what has been called the largest corruption scandal in Israel. Holyland involved the payment of bribes to government officials by the developers of a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Jerusalem.

Olmert also was convicted for accepting cash-filled envelopes from an American-Jewish businessman, Morris Talansky, and using it for personal and not political expenses.

Meanwhile, former Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas of the Balad party and the Joint Arab List was scheduled to enter prison on Sunday to serve a two-year term for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.

Ghattas was captured on a video surveillance camera in January passing the phones to two Palestinian security prisoners in Ketziot Prison. At first he denied passing the phones, but reportedly admitted it after being shown the video.

He said his action was “humanitarian and moral activism” after he was questioned by investigators.

The prison sentence is part of a plea bargain under which Ghattas also agreed to resign from the Knesset.

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