Court rejects Benizri sentencing appeal

Judge dismisses claim that 4-year sentence ignored convict's circumstances to create deterrence.

benizri shlomo 224 88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
benizri shlomo 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Supreme Court on Sunday rejected former cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri's request to reconsider his sentence of four years in prison for accepting a bribe, fraud and breach of faith and obstruction of justice. Last month, the court increased Benizri's jail sentence from 18 months to four years. Benizri's lawyers requested further discussion of the matter, claiming that the court had set a new bar of harsh punishment for offenses related to government corruption. The four-year sentence, they asserted, was a deviation from a standard and appropriate punishment policy for the purpose of creating a deterrence, while ignoring the circumstances of Benizri's case. In addition, they claimed, the sentence created an unbalanced precedent which could lead in the future to harsh and prolonged jail sentences being exacted without due consideration to the specifics of each case. Justice Eliezer Rivlin rejected the claims, writing in his decision that while Benizri's punishment was indeed made much more severe, it was clear that the court had been aware of the various considerations when making its decision. Rivlin stated that the Supreme Court was sometimes required to raise the bar on punishments for certain offenses when it became clear that the previous guidelines had not fulfilled their purpose. The decision to increased Benizri's sentence - as well to double the fine imposed on Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, who was convicted of being an intermediary in a bribery offense - came in late June, following appeals by Benizri and Elbaz against the conviction and sentences on the one hand, and by the state calling for tougher punishments on the other. Among the offenses for which Benizri was convicted was that he accepted various monetary favors from manpower contractor Moshe Sela and in return intervened on Sela's behalf in government decisions. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.