Israel's ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Released Early From Prison

Olmert served 16.5 months of his 27-month sentence for fraud and bribery before being paroled

Ehud Olmert leaves prison on July 2, 2017.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left prison just after 6 A.M. on Sunday morning after serving 16.5 months of his 27-month sentence for fraud and bribery.

His release followed a decision by the Israel Prison Service parole board Thursday to shorten his sentence by more than a third.

Until May 2018, the original date of his release, Olmert is to serve as a volunteer in various associations: Ezra Lemarpeh, which provides medical assistance to the poor, and the Leket Israel food bank.

The parole board decided that Olmert’s rehabilitation program, designed by the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, is to remain confidential. He will also be required to sign in with the police twice a month.

After previously rejecting Olmert’s request for a pardon, President Reuven Rivlin said that if a request for early release was received, he would consider lifting those restrictions. Olmert has since asked that Rivlin lift the restrictions.

Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before he became premier in 2006.

His departure from office in 2009 ended the last major Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ushered in the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Olmert’s release was made possible after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided not to oppose the request. Nitzan had previously said he intended to “go all the way” in objecting to Olmert’s early release. Indeed, the state prosecutor who appeared before the parole board, Deputy Central District Prosecutor Orly Ben-Ari, was opposed to early release, as were other attorneys in the prosecution team accompanying the police investigation.

However, as opposed to his earlier position, Nitzan – in a meeting at Mendelblit’s office – said that “under the circumstances” there was no room for an objection, and attorneys under the state prosecutor agreed.

With Olmert’s release, 10 years of investigations against the onetime mayor of Jerusalem have seemingly come to a close. It is believed the prosecution will soon complete the criminal examination it opened against Olmert for revealing sensitive information in the memoir he was writing in prison.

In light of the criticism Nitzan received, he will reportedly decide not to turn the examination into a criminal investigation or institute proceedings against Olmert.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.