Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert formally requested a pardon on Monday from President Reuven Rivlin, raising speculation that he intends to return to politics.
For the past decade, Olmert fought a high-profile legal battle that resulted in his serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence for fraud and bribery .He was released in July.
The president’s office said in response that the request would be considered along with any others received.
Former premier Olmert, just before entering jail: 'I did not take bribes'
Olmert and Rivlin have been political rivals for decades, ever since they entered politics together in the Jerusalem branch of the Likud. Rivlin previously accepted a request by Olmert
to remove parole conditions that would have prevented him from leaving the country and attending The Jerusalem Post Conference on April 29 in New York.
The Movement for Quality Government wrote to Rivlin asking him to turn down the pardon request, saying Olmert never expressed regret for his crimes or for starting a trend of questioning the integrity of the legal establishment.
“He was convicted for crimes he committed in public service, so he shouldn’t return to public service,” a spokesman for the movement said.
The designation of moral turpitude, which automatically accompanied Olmert’s bribery conviction, would prevent Olmert from returning to politics until seven years after his the end of his sentence. Meretz MK Mossi Raz said it would be especially wrong to give Olmert a pardon – which would rescind that moral turpitude designation – while the current prime minister is being investigated for corruption.
Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal said Olmert should not be pardoned because it would encourage further political corruption.
“The last criminal who returned to politics returned to the scene of the crime, and then to the police interrogation room,” Rosenthal said.
He was referring to Arye Deri, who was imprisoned for corruption that took place while he served as interior minister. After waiting the required seven years, he returned to politics and is again interior minister – and again under investigation for corruption.
“Olmert’s very request is shameful and indicates that our political culture has been corrupted. This is the time to state clearly, without stuttering, that a politician who bears moral turpitude can never return to public life,” Rosenthal added.
But coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) surprisingly said he believed Olmert should be pardoned due to his service to the state.
Olmert, 72, has told the courts he does not intend to return to politics. Sources close to him said he wanted the pardon because he is currently prevented from returning to directorates of companies on which he served before his incarceration. They said the conviction has also stopped him from volunteering for charities.
“He is being prevented from doing what he did before,” an Olmert associate said. “He also wants his grandchildren to see a clean grandfather. To say he wants to return to politics is crazy.”
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