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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The decision of the president of the state to grant a pardon or reduce the sentence of a convicted criminal is based on "charity and mercy," qualities that cannot be judged by routine legal standards, the state told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday.
The statement came in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government against Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who recommended to President Shimon Peres that he reduce the prison sentence of former MK Naomi Blumenthal and commute it to service on behalf of the public.
Only the president can make the final decision to pardon or reduce a sentence. However, such requests are first considered by the justice minister, who gives the president his opinion as to whether to accept or reject the request. The justice minister first reviews the opinion of the ministry's Parole Department, which examines the request in detail. Just as the justice minister is not bound to accept the recommendation of the Parole Department, the president is not bound to accept the justice minister's recommendation.
In the case of Blumenthal, the Pardons Department recommended rejecting the former MK's appeal for a pardon, but Friedmann did not accept it. Instead, he recommended reducing and commuting her sentence.
According to the law, the president is empowered to either grant a pardon (which could mean erasing the sentence or even erasing the conviction) or reducing the sentence either by reducing the length of the prison term or by commuting the prison term to another form of punishment.
The state pointed out that the Movement for Quality Government had asked the court to reject the "pardon" granted Blumenthal even though, in fact Peres had not pardoned her but reduced her sentence to six months and commuted it to a term of public service.
The state also argued that Peres's decision did not discriminate against other criminals seeking pardon or reduction of sentence, because "such decisions are individual ones made by the president according to individual appeals. These decisions vary from case to case in accordance with all of the concrete circumstances regarding each criminal. Therefore, it is impossible to make any general conclusions from each individual case."
The state also argued that since the decision to reduce and commute Blumenthal's decision was made by the president, there was no basis for holding the justice minister responsible for it.