Shula Zaken, the former chief of staff to prime minister Ehud Olmert, started her 11-month prison sentence on Tuesday, making her the first of the Holyland defendants to go behind bars.
Zaken is serving her sentence at Neveh Tirza Prison in Ramle following her conviction for bribery in the Holyland trial.
She had been given until September to begin her prison sentence, but moved up her start date voluntarily, reportedly with the hope that an early release could get her home to her family for Passover.
The rest of the convicted Holyland defendants, including Olmert, have appealed, or plan to appeal, their convictions, making it unclear when they will start to serve their prison terms – which for some are set to six to seven years.
Late Monday, Zaken tweeted a message to the public thanking her friends for support during the almost eight years she had been under investigation and said she would take all of the “support, love and faith” with her during the difficult period ahead in prison.
Zaken’s “short” 11-month sentence came from a plea bargain she cut with the state to testify against Olmert and provide incriminating tapes 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.
On July 6, by a 4-1 vote, the Supreme Court agreed to the state’s request to review the Zaken tapes, which could be a sign of the court leaning toward granting the state’s request for a retrial.
However, the court said that its agreeing to review the tapes did not reflect on how it might rule on the greater question of a retrial.
The former prime minister’s possible best chance at avoiding a retrial on charges for which he was acquitted is to block the state from showing the Supreme Court the tapes on the grounds that the trial verdict was set back in July 2012 and should not be revisited.
But Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis and Justices Salim Joubran, Neal Hendel and Uzi Vogelman voted in favor of reviewing the tapes, with only Justice Yoram Danziger voting against.
In mid-June, an expanded five-justice panel of the Supreme Court had heard the state’s motion for a retrial of Olmert’s acquittal in the Talansky Affair.
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.