Israeli President Rivlin Rejects Pardon Request From Former PM Ehud Olmert

Though rejected by Reuven Rivlin, Olmert is due to appear before a parole board in three months and could possibly have the last third of his sentence commuted.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at his sentencing hearing.
Ohad Zoigenberg

President Reuven Rivlin decided on Monday to reject a request to pardon former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was jailed in February 2016 on a corruption conviction.

Rivlin said that the president's authority to offer clemency is not a tool to appeal legal cases and so it wouldn't be appropriate to accept a pardon request that would immediately release the prisoner from jail.

However, the president noted that Olmert is due to appear before a parole board to discuss his request to be released after fulfilling two-thirds of his 27-month sentence.

In the case Olmert's request for early release is accepted by the parole board, Rivlin said he will consider eliminating Olmert's status as a parolee which would place restrictions on him.

Rivlin's stance matched the opinion of the parole committee in the Justice Ministry, which advised the president not to accept the request. This was in opposition to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who told the president that she thought Olmert's unique contributions to Israel's security, as well as the fact that he's already served a significant portion of his sentence, should be considered favorably.

The former prime minister has served 13 of the 27 months he was sentenced to in the Talansky affair, part of the Holyland corruption case, in which he was convicted of obstruction of justice. In another three months, he will be able to turn to the parole board to request that his sentence be shortened by a third.

Meanwhile, the parole board approved the early release of businessman Avigdor Kellner, also implicated in the Holyland case. Kellner was convicted of two corruption related crimes and was sentenced to 24 months in prison after his appeal to the High Court of Justice was partly accepted.

He was released after serving two-thirds of his sentence on condition that he continue in a rehabilitation program for prisoners and that he volunteer twice weekly at the security headquarters of the Kfar Shmaryahu Regional Council for the remaining third of his sentence.