Ma'ariv Owner and Businessman Ofer Nimrodi Released From Prison

Ma'ariv owner and businessman Ofer Nimrodi, who has been serving a 25-month sentence for obstruction of justice, fraud and harassing a witness, was released from the "Hadarim" prison Wednesday afternoon.

The Prison Service's parole board decided Tuesday to accept Nimrodi's request to be released after having completed two-thirds of his sentence. The State Attorney's office, which originally requested that Nimrodi's release be delayed for a week, in order to have time to contemplate whether or not to appeal the decision, has decided against the appeal. Nimrodi was therefore released immediately.

The chairman of the parole board, retired Justice Mordechai Balzar, said in his ruling Tuesday that Nimrodi no longer represents a danger to the public and that his early release would not harm the public interest.

Balzar quoted extensively in his ruling from statements made by Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom, after she accepted a plea bargain in Nimrodi's second trial at the Tel Aviv District Court. Balzar quoted her comment that after the annulment of some of the original charges, Nimrodi should no longer be described as a "master criminal ... whose tentacles reach deep into the corridors of the executive and the police."

Balzar accepted the claims of Nimrodi's attorneys, Dan Avi-Yitzhak and Moshe Yisrael, that both cases in which he was indicted were related to the same affair, and therefore their client should not be seen as a recidivist.

With regard to classified information submitted to the parole board by police, Balzar said the board was satisfied there was nothing in that information that pointed to Nimrodi being a danger during the remainder of his sentence or even in the probation period after completion of his sentence.

Balzar criticized the police report filed on Nimrodi by the police intelligence unit attached to the Prison Services, which contained inaccuracies as claimed by the prisoner's attorney. The board had taken into account that the police objected to Nimrodi's release, but it had found no justification for the police's objections, he said.

Sources in the State Prosecutor's office said Tuesday that the board's ruling was completely one-sided and that Balzar had been extremely selective in his choice of quotes from Nimrodi's sentencing. The sources said they found it surprising that Balzar had chosen only quotes that supported the board's decision and not quotes that hinted at the possibility that Nimrodi did indeed have recidivist tendencies.

Meanwhile, Avi-Yitzhak on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein protesting against the current legal situation, in which the parole board has no mandate to accept the state prosecution's request to delay early release and has to automatically authorize requests for a seven-day stay of execution. Avi-Yitzhak noted Balzar's comments that had the board had the authority to do so, it would have rejected the state attorney's request. Avi-Yitzhak told Ha'aretz that the present situation was "a violation of the Basic Law on Human Freedom and Dignity."