A Rare Glimpse Into the Pardon Requests That Pull at President Peres' Heartstrings

In rare interview, legal adviser Udit Corinaldi-Sirkis says that Shimon Peres received more than 2,500 such requests last year.

President Shimon Peres receives approximately 2,500 pardon requests each year. But contrary to popular perception, only about 30 percent are from people seeking reduced jail terms.

Roughly half seek the erasure of a criminal record, 10 percent seek to restore a revoked driver's license, and 10 percent seek to lower fines - sometimes even those totaling only a few hundred shekels.

Peres - Michal Fattal - 07102011
Michal Fattal

Of the 2,524 pardon requests submitted in 2010, Peres granted 308, of which 227 involved erasing a criminal record.

Udit Corinaldi-Sirkis, the President's Residence legal adviser, said pardons are generally granted when the president concludes that since the court passed judgment, some radical change has occurred that would have affected the court's own decision had it been true at the time: Perhaps the applicant's health or that of a close relative has deteriorated sharply, perhaps the family's financial situation has taken sharp turn for the worse, or perhaps the applicant "has done a 180-degree turn, seeks to rehabilitate himself and turn over a new leaf, and a pardon could help him in the rehabilitation process."

One request resulted in an exceptional commutation.

The case involved a drug addict whose driving license was revoked for a year due to an offense committed five years ago. When he started a rehabilitation program, he asked Peres to commute the sentence, saying he was a single father whose job was driving a removals van, so he needed the license to support his son.

The unique, gradual commutation, allows the man to drive only on workdays, and only for 60 days at a time. After 50 days, police have to certify that he has committed no traffic violations in the interim, and a urine test has to show him drug-free. The commutation can then be extended for another 60 days.