The State Attorney’s Office on Monday asked that former prime minister Ehud Olmert be given a minimum of six years in prison and a maximum of 11 years for his bribery conviction, in the first of multiple days of sentencing hearings.
The sentencing’s time frame stems from two separate counts of bribery: one in which the state asked for five to seven years – relating to the $500,000 given to Olmert’s brother at his request – and another in which the state asked for two to four years, relating to the NIS 60,000 paid toward Olmert’s election debts.
The court will decide what sentence Olmert, who was convicted on March 31, will receive at a later date. The state further requested that Olmert be fined NIS 1,347,000.
The sentencing hearing also dealt with the punishment of nine other prominent Holyland project defendants, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner, who were convicted of giving or receiving bribes to advance the Holyland real estate project.
The state asked that Lupolianski be sentenced to fiveto- eight years in prison for various counts (with an overall minimum of six years) and that Dankner be sentenced to seven-to-eight years. The state also asked for sentences ranging from three to more than nine years for the other defendants.
Prosecutor Yonatan Tadmor said on behalf of the state that it believes the sentences must be harsh to “reverberate and deter” future corruption.
Tadmor added that being “the minister of ministers” should not get any of the convicted men special treatment, “rather the opposite” should be true and an example should be made of them.
He cited court decisions and long prison sentences regarding former president Moshe Katsav and Shas leaders Aryeh Deri and Shlomo Benizri.
In contrast, Amir Dan, Olmer t’s spokesman, slammed the state’s request for punishments as “extreme and completely ridiculous” and “out of line with court decisions from the last 10 years.”
He added that the prosecution was looking to settle scores with Olmert.
While the court did not comment specifically on Olmert, Judge David Rozen implied to the Holyland scheme’s mastermind, Hillel Cherny, that he was not interested in the defendants claiming innocence or trying to completely avoid prison time.
Cherny’s lawyer, Giora Aderet, implied that he would accept 3.5 years in prison, which, while each defendant has a different situation, showed how much the convictions may have limited the defendants’ options.
During the hearing it was discovered that Olmert had decided to drop former Mossad head Meir Dagan and all other character witnesses.
The former prime minister was expected to call Dagan to highlight his contributions to the state. It could be understood that he worried that highlighting his high office could lead to a harsher sentence.
Still there was some ad hoc testimony for Olmert. Maj.- Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, while being a character witness for other defendants, spontaneously put forth several examples of Olmert’s strong character and contributions.
Dentist Shlomit Chovav- Bach, who had performed surgery during which Lupolianki’s grandson died, was in tears through most of her testimony and said on the stand that “he forgave me” so “we should forgive him.”
Unlike the half-dozen witnesses testifying in an attempt to soften the sentences for Lupolianski and the other defendants, to whom Rozen appeared to be only half-paying attention, Bach captured the rapt attention of Rozen and the whole courtroom.
Olmert, Lupolianski, and a total of 10 other prominent defendants were convicted at the end of March for giving and receiving bribes, and other crimes in the Holyland trial.
The trial fleshed out the worst fraud and bribery scheme in the country’s history, in which public servants committed serious crimes to get around legal and zoning obstacles for the Holyland project in southern Jerusalem and some other projects.
Chovav-Bach described Lupolianski and his family’s reaction when she lost his grandson in dental surgery, saying they were “close to the angels” and that while she was being questioned by police, they had passed her a message, wanting to know “how I was and [that] they were not mad at me.”
Chovav-Bach added that she visited the Lupolianskis during the seven days of mourning and that she had been unsure “how I would live, how I would take care of my kids, if I wanted to live,” but that the Lupolianskis made her believe in forgiveness and “strengthened me.”
She said Lupolianski “wanted to see me contribute to society and not to be punished.”
Chovav-Bach also praised Yad Sarah as caring for her demented father, implying that Lupolianski should not be punished for getting money for the organization as part of the bribery scheme.
Around a dozen other character witnesses testified for various defendants, including former MK Ze’ev Bielski, saying that the defendants had helped them through difficulties.