Crime Boss Unlikely to Get Pardon Despite His Poor Health

Ze'ev Rosenstein serving lengthy term for murder.

Despite his precarious state of health, law enforcement officials are adamantly opposing organized crime figure Ze'ev Rosenstein's request for a presidential pardon, Haaretz has learned.

The Justice Ministry recently spelled out these objections in a document it sent to President Shimon Peres, contending in part that Rosenstein's release would pose a threat to the public because he is a target of assassination by other underworld figures. The ministry also noted that pardoning an organized crime kingpin would deal a blow to the law enforcement system that worked so hard to put Rosenstein behind bars in the first place.

Rosenstein filed his request for a pardon last October. But in light of opposition by the Justice Ministry and from Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman himself, and as a result of the special circumstances of the case, it is widely assumed Peres will not grant the pardon.

Rosenstein, in his late fifties, had been the country's most wanted police suspect for a number of years and is currently serving two consecutive 17-year sentences in prison, following convictions for murder and for the attempted assassination of his rivals. He was also tried and convicted for trafficking 1 million Ecstasy pills in the United States, after being extradited by Israel in 2006 to stand trial there.

He eventually cut a plea agreement that enabled him to serve time for his U.S. conviction in Israel, after complaining about the harsh detention conditions in the United States. He claimed that he admitted to crimes he never committed as part of the deal.

Last month Rosenstein's lawyer, Yifat Winkler, asked that the clemency request be put on hold, to give her an opportunity to provide additional information about her client's deteriorating medical condition. Winkler has since sent that additional information and the clemency request is now before Peres, for the president's consideration.

Hit and miss

Among assassination attempts in which Rosenstein was targeted was an attempted hit in Tel Aviv in 2003, in which three bystanders were killed and about 20 others injured; it was considered the worst attack of its kind in the country's history. Several months earlier, Rosenstein sustained light injuries at another Tel Aviv location when an explosive was detonated near him, injuring nine other people as well.

After he returned to Israel following his American detention, he admitted in a plea bargain that he ordered two Colombians to carry out a hit on his rivals in Israel, brothers Nissim and Yaakov Alperon. Rosenstein subsequently canceled the hit. The three-year sentence he received ran concurrent with the sentence for the drug conviction in the United States. In February of this year, Rosenstein was also convicted, again as part of a plea bargain, of conspiracy to commit a triple murder in 2001 at a Sea of Galilee beach.