Former Shas Minister Benizri Released From Prison

Shlomo Benizri gets early release along with 600 other prisoners, due to overcrowding in prisons.

Former government minister and Knesset member Shlomo Benizri (Shas) was released from prison on Thursday morning, along with 600 other prisoners whose sentences were commuted due to overcrowding in Israel's jails.

Upon his release, Benizri attacked the courts. "I was framed," he claimed, calling his imprisonment "one of the worst injustices in the history of the state."

Benizri - Appelbaum - 3.2012
Tomer Appelbaum

The Shas party released a statement on Thursday saying it "welcomes the release of Rabbi Shlomo Benizri, who has dedicated and sacrificed all his life on behalf of the public, and contributed greatly to Israeli society," adding that it hoped Benizri would "continue his good works."

Benizri was convicted in 2008 of accepting bribes, breach of trust and obstructing justice and sentenced to 18 months in jail. His sentence was later extended to four years, following an appeal by the state.

In January, a parole board decided to reduce his sentence by 16 months for good behavior, setting his release date for April.

Benizri's early release was made possible when Shas MKs in the Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee decided on Wednesday to lower the maximum number of prisoners held in Israel's prisons, from 17,700 to 16,873.

Members of the committee denied that the decision was made specifically with Benizri in mind.

Another prisoner who went free on Thursday is former policeman Shahar Mizrahi, who was convicted in 2009 of shooting and killing Mahmoud Ghanaim during an alleged vehicle theft. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison but, following the state's appeal, the Supreme Court doubled his sentence.

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