Former Shas Minister Shlomo Benizri 390 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters Photographer / Reuters)
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) on Thursday released former cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri, who served two and a half years of a four-year sentence for accepting bribes, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Benizri's freedom came as part of a wider release of 600 prisoners. The IPS is implementing a decision to reduce the number of prisoners in its custody.
Upon his release, Benizri told reporters that although he is legally forbidden to return to politics, he will continue serving the country.
Speaking outside the prison following his release, he claimed he was treated unfairly by the justice system, saying it treated him with vengeance and described his sentence as a "price tag" attack.
"Today one of the biggest injustices committed in this country ends," Benizri added. "My voice was not heard. I did not get to become [Marwan] Barghouti, who won the support of MKs from the Left and of Amos Oz."
The former Shas MK also lamented that President Shimon Peres did not grant him a pardon.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said that the release is in keeping with an IPS regulation that allows them to grant early releases to inmates if prisons are at capacity.
The release follows a decision made last week by the Knesset Control Committee, which stipulated that only those prisoners serving up to four years or whose original sentence was reduced to four years or less are eligible for administrative release.
The committee also lowered the maximum number of prisoners in Israeli prisons to 16,873 from its previous high of 17,700.
The IPS said the decision to limit the number of prisoners and to release the 600 inmates this week were made out of the desire to improve the living conditions for inmates.
They added that the release was not carried out earlier because there was no need to do so following the release of 1,027 security prisoners during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October.
Also among those released Thursday was former police detective Shahar Mizrahi, nearly a year before the end of his 30-month sentence and one month before his scheduled parole. Mizrahi was convicted of manslaughter in 2010 for the 2006 shooting death of a suspected car thief.
Mizrahi's early release was approved by a parole board last month and initially scheduled for next month.
Former head of the Heftsiba construction company Boaz Yona, who was convicted of swindling real estate customers, was also released. Yona was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2008 after signing a plea bargain that also included NIS 8 million to his victims.