Former Shas party minister Shlomo Benizri
Former Shas party minister Shlomo Benizri Photo by Emil Salman
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The Israel Prison Service announced on Wednesday that it would release former Knesset member Shlomo Benizri (Shas) on Thursday, instead of April as was previously stated.

The decision, which calls for the release of Benizri along with 600 other prisoners was made by the head of the Israel Prison Service, Aharon Franco, due to lack of room in Israeli prisons. Israel Prison Service rejected allegations that the early release was due to pressure from politicians close to Benizri.

The announcement comes a month after the Israel Prison Service parole board decided to reduce Benizri’s sentence. The board based its decision on Benizri's conduct in prison.

The parole board cut Benizri's sentence by a year and four months, meaning he was due to be released in April.

The board ruled that Benizri is not a problematic inmate after seeing his behavior and lifestyle during his imprisonment. Moreover, since former President Moshe Katsav entered prison after being convicted of rape and other offenses, Benizri has mediated between him and the Israel Prison Service. Benizri was asked to help the former president get accustomed to prison life. When Katsav refused to don his orange prison uniform and was therefore stripped of privileges such as going to the prison canteen, the prison allowed Benizri to buy products on Katsav's behalf.

Two years ago, Jerusalem District Court sentenced the former health and social welfare minister to 18 months in prison for violations including accepting bribes, breach of trust and obstructing justice - offenses the court found amounted to moral turpitude. Both Benizri and the state appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which extended his sentence to four years.

Benizri was found to have accepted expensive favors from a contractor in exchange for inside information on foreign workers due to arrive in Israel.
In 2010, Benizri submitted a pardon request to President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.