Ex-Minister Benizri to Be Released From Prison Today

Former Shas lawmaker is one of 600 freed due to apparent overcrowding.

Former minister and Knesset member Shlomo Benizri (Shas ) will be released from prison today, instead of in April, after a Knesset committee reduced the maximum number of inmates allowed, due to apparent overcrowding in the country's prisons.

Shas MKs in the Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee yesterday decided to lower the maximum number of prisoners allowed from 17,700 to 16,873, paving the way for Benizri's release.

Prison Service Commissioner Aharon Franco signed Benizri's release along with that of 600 other prisoners, citing "lack of room" in prisons.

Members of the Interior and Environment Committee yesterday denied they had lowered the number of permitted prison inmates by about 600 in order to release Benizri.

Former health and social affairs minister Benizri was sentenced to 18 months for accepting bribes, breach of trust and obstructing justice, offenses the court decided involved moral turpitude.

After Benizri appealed to the Supreme Court to reduce his sentence and the state appealed to increase it, the court extended Benizri's sentence to four years. About a month ago the Prison Service parole board reduced his sentence by 16 months, setting his release date for April.

Another prisoner to be freed today 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.