Decision on Early Release of Former Israeli PM Olmert Expected Thursday

Olmert began serving a 27-month sentence on charges including fraud and bribery in February 2016. If one-third of the sentence is commuted he could be released as soon as July 2

Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in February 2016
Noam Moskowitz /' Walla News pool photo

The Maasiyahu Prison parole board will announce Thursday whether it will grant early release to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, over the opposition of state prosecutors. Even if the board does agree to parole, prosecutors are likely to request a delay while they decide whether to appeal the decision.

Olmert began serving a 27-month sentence on charges including fraud and bribery in February 2016. If one-third of the sentence is commuted, as is common in Israel, he could be released as soon as July 2.

The parole board convened 10 days ago to hear prosecutors’ objections, refusing to delay the meeting despite an active probe of allegations that Olmert mishandled classified documents while writing his memoirs in prison.

The hearing was very long, and included a presentation by prosecuting attorney Orly Ben Ari that revealed classified information from the inquiries into the possible leaks that had been made up to that time.

Sources who attended the hearing, which itself was designated “classified,” told of an  emotional debate, during which Olmert protested prosecutors’ portrayal of him as a traitor who undermined state security.

Prosecutors oppose Olmert’s release due to suspicions that he exposed sensitive, secret information during the writing of his book that could cause serious damage to state security, in their estimation. The information relates to two sensitive Israeli security operations. The prosecution alleges that Olmert confirms that Israel was behind a move for which it had never officially assumed responsibility.

Olmert’s attorney, Hanina Brandes, was questioned as he emerged from Maasiyahu Prison carrying draft manuscripts of Olmert’s book. Two weeks ago police searched the offices of Yedioth Books, Olmert’s publisher, as well as the home of the book’s editor, Yehuda Ya’ari. The hard disk that was taken from Ya’ari’s computer also contained part of books being written by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and journalist Ben Caspit.

Since those raids, numerous politicians and journalists have called to release Olmert and criticized the prosecution’s handling of the case.