(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shula Zaken was released by the Prisons Service on Monday following a parole board approval of her early release that cut substantial time off her sentence.
Zaken, who served as former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief, was sentenced to 11 months in prison as part of a plea deal after she agreed to testify against him, but was in fact in jail for under seven months. She began serving her prison sentence in July.
Zaken emerged from Neveh Tirza Prison in Ramle giving her husband and son and two other family members big hugs.
She told the press, “My first words are ‘blessed is the one who frees the bound,’ thank you to God who made it possible for me to get through this experience, and I hope I endured it the right way.”
“I have a family, I have children, I have a mother who is waiting for me,” she said. “Please let me return to normal life.”
Responding curtly to questions about her experience in jail, Zaken she would discuss it “when the time is right.”
Zaken was convicted of multiple bribery charges in the Holyland real estate affair as part of the plea deal, but received a shorter sentence instead of the six years in prison she would have likely otherwise received.
In the plea deal she cut with the state, Zaken agreed to testify against Olmert and provide incriminating recordings that would assist the prosecution in its attempt to seek a retrial of the Talansky Affair, and to file a new indictment against Olmert for obstruction of justice in pushing her not to cooperate with the state.
The former bureau chief has provided prosecutors with a wide range of recorded telephone conversations with Olmert, and also took the stand against him and undercut his defenses, which had obtained him an acquittal in the original Talansky trial in July 2012.
The state prosecution recently received new evidence from Zaken to try to beat back Olmert’s appeal of his Holyland bribery conviction and six-year prison sentence in the Supreme Court.
Before turning state’s witness against Olmert, which Zaken said she did partially after Olmert’s lawyer called her “corrupt” on television, she had served Olmert faithfully in all of his political and private sector positions for over 30 years.