Former Finance Minister Won't Let Olmert Visit Him in Jail

Abraham Hirchson is serving a sentence of five years and five months for embezzling funds.

Former finance minister Abraham Hirchson has refused requests by ministers and MKs to visit him in prison, and has even turned down former prime minister Ehud Olmert's request to see him.

Hirchson is serving a sentence of five years and five months in Hermon Prison after being convicted earlier this year of stealing NIS 1.8 million from the National Workers Organization and embezzling funds from NILI, a nonprofit organization he headed.

He reportedly told family members and prison staff that he does not want friends and acquaintances to visit him and would like to reserve all the visiting time to which he is entitled for relatives.

Olmert telephones Hirchson's children once a week to ask how he is doing, but Hirchson has not spoken to him directly, though he has almost unlimited access to a public telephone in his cell block.

"He is pleasantly surprised by the politicians' interest and feels that they have not turned their backs on him," a person who spoke to Hirchson recently told Haaretz.

Amir Dan, Olmert's media adviser, refused to comment. An Israel Prison Service source confirmed that Hirchson had refused politicians' requests to visit him.

Hirchson, who has appealed his sentence to the Supreme Court, accuses the media of passing judgment on him in advance.

"When a case reaches the media, the verdict is clear in advance," he reportedly told a person who met him recently.

"Hirchson claims he was convicted because of the media and had no chance of getting a fair trial," this person continued. "The media convicted him, and from the early stages it was clear the trial would start and end in the media and that the court could not avoid being influenced by the media."

Hirchson reportedly objects to being transferred to a prison in the central region, preferring to stay in Hermon Prison, which is up north, away from the spotlight.

He spends several hours a day in the prison's Torah study program but does not take part in its employment program. He watches television, listens to the radio and keeps up with current events.

Prison officials described him as a "model prisoner" who makes no demands on the staff and expects no privileges.

Hirchson shares his prison cell with another prisoner who sleeps in the bunk bed above his own. They have a television set and an electric kettle in their cell.

The inmates in Hirchson's section have almost unlimited access to the section's central courtyard, where Hirchson frequently strolls, prison sources said.

One prison official quoted him as saying he feels uncomfortable meeting members of his family, who visit him once a week, in his orange prison uniform.

His closest friend in prison is Eli Ron, the architect who invented the Pal-Kal construction method that led to the collapse of the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem in 2001. Ron was sentenced to a four-year term for causing the deaths of 23 people and the injury of 356 by negligence.