State opposes postponing start of Benizri's 4-year jail sentence

Prosecuting attorney: Request doesn't raise arguments justifying second postponement.

Benizri 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Benizri 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The state informed the High Court of Justice on Monday that it opposed the request of former MK and labor and welfare minister Shlomo Benizri for the beginning of his four-year prison sentence to be postponed until after Succot. Benizri is due to go to jail on September 1, after already having received a two-month postponement from the day of the Supreme Court's ruling on June 24, increasing his jail sentence from 18 months to four years. In the meantime, the High Court has already rejected a request by Benizri's lawyers for a new appeal hearing on the grounds that the stiff sentence indicated that the courts were embarking on a new punishment policy when it came to crimes committed by public figures. Benizri was found guilty of accepting a bribe, fraud, breach of faith and obstruction of justice in connection with his give-and-take relations with manpower contractor Moshe Sela. Benizri asked for the postponement on the grounds that he had to undergo medical tests, wanted to spend the High Holidays with his family and was awaiting the birth of two grandchildren. According to prosecuting attorney Michael Karshen, "the state is opposed to the request to postpone the beginning of the prison term to which the defendant was sentenced because the request does not raise arguments that justify a second postponement." Karshen wrote that Benizri first complained about pains in April and had had until now to examine them. Furthermore, the examinations he had undergone so far did not indicate that he was in serious condition. Finally, he could receive good medical care in prison. Meanwhile, legal experts expressed indignation over the fact that Interior Minister Eli Yishai appealed to President Shimon Peres to pardon Benizri even before he began his sentence. On August 5, Yishai wrote to Peres, "As a public figure, a son of the Sephardic community, the Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of Shas, I join [the request to pardon Benizri submitted by someone else]. I don't want to use arguments raised by others who refer to the feelings of discrimination, the 'second Israel,' the feelings of oppression and the social wound that still bleeds. "I will also refrain from referring to expressions that give harsh and precise expression to the deep feelings of sorrow that exist and the exposed nerves, even though they too should be taken into account in response to this request addressed to you." Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat Law College, wrote that Yishai's request "is full of nice words but lacks any basis, legal or ethical and moral." The Movement for Quality Government wrote to Yishai asking him to "refrain in the future from [making] unacceptable requests such as this to the governing authorities, a request that constitutes an improper exploitation of you position and power. This request is ten times more improper when it is made on behalf of convicted criminals or criminal suspects."