Former chief rabbi Yona Metzger leaves a Jerusalem court last March.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former chief rabbi Yona Metzger, who was convicted on bribery charges in in 2017 and entered prison in May that year, is expected to be released on parole today after serving 22 months behind bars.
The Attorney General’s Office did not object to Metzger’s early release, and the disgraced rabbi will likely to leave Maasiyahu Penitentiary today, after the Parole Board agreed to the request for early release on Tuesday.
Haifa-born Metzger, 66, was the first former chief rabbi to go to prison. He served as Ashkenazi chief rabbi between 2003 and 2013, and was convicted in a plea bargain on charges of bribery and various fraud offenses committed during his tenure.
Originally, the Jerusalem District Court had given Metzger a stiff four-and-a-half year jail sentence, overlooking the plea bargain. But the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to three-and-a-half years.
Metzger was also issued with fines and asset forfeitures amounting to some NIS 5 million.
He was indicted in October 2015 on charges of taking NIS 10 million in bribes, NIS 7 million of which he received directly. His trial opened in March 2016, but never got deep into the trial phase due to ongoing plea bargain negotiations which eventually resulted in a deal.
In one of the most egregious offenses for a spiritual leader, the so-called “conversion affair,” Metzger was convicted of receiving large bribes from foreigners in return for getting approval for their conversions to Judaism and for getting approval for their Jewish status clarification requests in the state rabbinical courts.
In January, President Reuben Rivlin rejected Metzger’s request for a commuted sentence, saying that a pardon from the president was not part of the judicial process and was only available in “isolated and exceptional cases.”
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