Benizri asks Peres for presidential pardon

Shas politician served as minister of health and minister of labor and welfare before being sentenced to four years in jail last year.

March 1, 2010 03:44
3 minute read.
Benizri asks Peres for presidential pardon

Benizri. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Shlomo Benizri, the Shas politician who served as minister of health and minister of labor and welfare before being sentenced to four years in jail last year, asked President Shimon Peres on Sunday to pardon him.

Benizri, who was convicted of accepting a bribe, fraud, breach of faith and obstruction of justice, has been in jail so far for less than six months.

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In the letter to Peres, which was included in a request for a pardon drawn up by Benizri’s lawyers, Yehoram Malka and Avi Himi, the attorneys wrote, “Rabbi Benizri turns to the president from a place of pain, agony and sorrow and asks to take into consideration his personal circumstances, his public activities and his widespread charitable works in which he occupied himself and still occupies himself these several decades,” the letter reads.

“He asks the president to dilute his punishment with charity and mercy to which, with all modesty, he is more than worthy,” the lawyers wrote.

“Beginning with the publication of the allegations against him in the media, through the investigation which lasted many years, and ending with the complex trial which also lasted many years, and, finally, his conviction – Benizri’s life turned upside down,” the letter continues.

“He lost his good name, his dignity and the dignity of his family were trampled into dust,” his attorneys write, “his political career of many years which he worked at by the sweat of his brow was lost, and while serving his sentence, he left behind a family without a father, without an income, carrying on its shoulders the burden of heavy debts that piled up during the trial, as well as thousands of students and others whom he supported who have been left without a guiding hand.”

Benizri is the second person to ask Peres to pardon him. He was preceded by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who wrote to Peres to pardon Benizri on August 5, several weeks before Benizri began serving his sentence.

Benizri was originally sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Jerusalem District Court. However, the Supreme Court increased the sentence to four years in jail in the wake of an appeal filed by the prosecution.

The defendant then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case again on the grounds that the justices had introduced a new level of punishment for the type of crimes committed by Benizri, as could be seen by the dramatic difference between the length of sentences handed down by the District and Supreme Courts.

The Supreme Court rejected the request. As the date set for his prison incarceration drew closer, Benizri petitioned the High Court of Justice to postpone it so that he could be with his family over the High Holidays and Succot. The court rejected this request as well.

Although Benizri’s request for clemency was published on various Web sites and broadcast on the electronic media, the actual letter he sent to President Peres had not arrived by 3 p.m. on Sunday.

When it does arrive, said the President’s spokeswoman, the President will study the case and give it full consideration. He will make his decision in consultation with the Justice Ministry’s Pardons Department and the Prison Services.

The processing of the appeal can be a drawn-out affair, she warned. It all depended on the speed with which the Justice Ministry and the Prison Services responded to questions put to them by the President.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

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