Shin Bet to Protect Olmert in Prison

'There are many who would like to find a way to prisoners who could stage an attack against Olmert,’ says senior prison official.

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (2nd R) waits to hear his verdict at the Tel Aviv District Court in this March 31, 2014 file photo.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (2nd R) waits to hear his verdict at the Tel Aviv District Court in this March 31, 2014 file photo.Credit: Reuters
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israel Prison Service will work with the Shin Bet security service to ensure former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's safety if he serves the six-year prison sentence he was given on Tuesday in the Holyland corruption case.

Olmert, who said he is appealing his sentence and conviction, is to report to the Prison Service on September 1, but it will likely be more than a year before he is behind bars. The Prison Service has yet to decide which prison or cell he will be incarcerated in. But discussions of the matter with the Shin Bet security service will begin soon.

“This is a senior personality who we know could become a target for many in the Arab world,” said a senior prison official. “He launched the second war in Lebanon and was in office during the assassination of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, for which Israel was blamed. There are many who would like to find a way to prisoners who could stage an attack against Olmert.”

The prison official said that Olmert will not be held in an open section of a prison, where he would be in contact with Arab inmates. Rather, he will be held in a special section of a prison along with other select prisoners. The official did not rule out the possibility that the seven people sentenced in the Holyland case will be imprisoned together in the section.

One candidate is a section on the ground floor of Ayalon Prison in the central Israeli city of Ramla, where alleged former Mossad Agent Ben Zeiger, known as "Prisoner X," hung himself. The section has its own yard and can be separated from the rest of the prison. Israeli mob boss and drug trafficker Zeev Rosenstein is being held there.

Olmert will also have to be given a special cell, equipped with security cameras and emergency buzzers, the Prison Service official said. He will require a great deal of special treatment.

“He won’t be entering as a young man. He’ll need medical treatment and visits with doctors to obtain prescriptions. Usually prisoners, go to the doctor, but we’ll have to find ways that won’t endanger him”, the prison official said.

Whatever prison is chosen, it is likely to be near Ramla, rather than in the north. Unlike former President Moshe Katzav, who served seven years in prison for rape and other sex crimes, Olmert will not be held in a religious section of a prison, although such sections are the only ones without Arab inmates.

The Shin Bet probably will not protect Olmert in prison, but will train special forces in the Prison Service to do so. The Shin Bet may step in though to transport Olmert or if it receives intelligence indicating that he is threatened. The Shin Bet is mainly worried about a terror attack against Olmert, rather than attempts by criminals to extort him. But risks abound.

“Prison authorities will have to watch out for other risks such as poisoning and other parameters that we don’t even want to think about at this stage.”

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