Ex-Upper Nazareth Mayor Released From Prison After Bribery Stint

Shimon Gapso was jailed for threatening to fire the ex-wife of an opposition city council member.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Former Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, center, after his release from prison, October 18, 2016.
Former Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, center, after his release from prison, October 18, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Former Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, who was convicted of bribery for illegally threatening the job of a city employee, was released from prison Tuesday after serving his full three and a half months.

“I think a public figure who’s been here at least as long as I’ve been, 108 days, is a better public figure than someone who’s never been here,” he said upon his release.

When asked whether he intended to return to public life, Gapso replied: “At the moment I’m returning to my family.”

He added: “I love this country, I love this country the way you love a child. And you love a child even if you’re angry at him. Everything’s okay. We’ve been through worse.”

Gapso and his deputy Adi Berko were convicted of conditioning the employment of a city employee on the resignation of her former husband, Semion Baron, from the city council.

The Supreme Court ruled that Gapso was directly involved in his staff’s efforts after the election for the Upper Nazareth City Council in November 2008. His staff demanded the resignation of Baron, a councilman for the opposition Kadima party. Gapso’s people told Baron that if he did not step down, his ex-wife would lose her municipal job.

The court ruled that Gapso’s behavior constituted bribery because the condition he imposed via his associates blatantly exploited his status as mayor. The justices also ruled that because Gapso sought to influence the composition of the city council opposition, his motives were political.

In March the Supreme Court ruled that his crime involved moral turpitude and sentenced him to six months in prison, increasing the sentence imposed by the Haifa District Court a year earlier.

The district court hadn’t found Gapso guilty of moral turpitude and sentenced him to six months of community service. In the end, Gapso’s punishment was reduced by one-third and his time under house arrest was taken into account, so the final sentence was three and a half months.

Last year, Gapso was acquitted in a separate bribery case.