Omri Sharon Makes Emotional Plea for Leniency as Party Funding Trial Closes

"Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not good with long speeches," Omri Sharon said yesterday in exercising his right as a defendant to have the last word at his trial.

Sharon and co-defendant Gabriel Manor will be sentenced on February 14.

Sharon read out his emotional statements quickly, in a weak voice. He said that 1999, the year he committed the offenses, "was one of the hardest years for both me and my family. It was the year my mother's cancer was discovered, when I found myself, without any previous political experience, trying to support my father and his way, in which I believed... .

"In those years, my father's political situation was worse than ever, but I had complete faith in him and in the knowledge that his way and his leadership were right and appropriate for the future of Israel. I accepted the task of trying to bring him victory in the elections. I have an enormous amount of love for my father, both then and now, and my desire to help and support my father and his policies was very strong. I made mistakes along the way, serious mistakes, and I am sorry about that. I admitted my guilt in the clearest way ... . I hope the court will take these statements into consideration when it comes to sentencing me," he continued.

Sharon also referred to Manor, a childhood friend: "His involvement in this affair came about solely from his friendship for me and my family, and I regret it. I see it as a particular duty for me to ask the honorable court to extend much more consideration to him than to me."

Manor also spoke, saying with tears in his eyes that he is not the man he was before the affair, and requested leniency.

The crimes and violations stem from Sharon's management of his Likud leadership campaign between July 1999 and February 2000. Sharon was convicted of falsifying corporate documents, perjury, corporate executive offenses and violating the party funding law.

The prosecution has requested that Sharon be given jail time, not just the suspended sentence that it wants for Manor. Sharon's attorney said it would be a miscarriage of justice to give his client a custodial sentence and claimed that such a sentence would "perhaps be because of who he is."