Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday morning entered the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel to begin serving his sentence, after his appeals to overturn his conviction on corruption charges. Olmert will be serving a term of at least 19 months, for his convictions in the Holyland construction project scandal, in which the court said that he had illegally approved the apartment project in the Malcha neighborhood of Yerushalayim in exchange for favors.
Olmert may spend a total of 27 months in prison, if a six-month sentence he received for obstruction of justice is to be served separately. That sentence was confirmed several weeks ago, when the court convicted Olmert of trying to persuade his longtime aide, Shula Zaken, not to turn state’s evidence against him.
Olmert entered the prison quietly Monday morning, passing a gauntlet of media people who had gathered to witness the first imprisonment ever of an Israeli Prime Minister. Earlier, Olmert released an audio message which was broadcast on Israeli media, in which he again proclaimed his innocence. “During my long career as a public servant I have of course made mistakes, but I do not believe that these mistakes were criminal in nature. I am paying a very high price for some of these mistakes, perhaps too high a price. It is with a heavy heart that I bear this burden. There is no man above the law.”
Olmert will be serving in a special section, in which he will be housed with five other, specially hand-picked inmates who have been vetted to ensure they cannot take advantage of Olmert in any way while he is in prison. Maasiyahu is a minimum to medium security prison, so Olmert will be able to dress in civilian clothes while he freely moves about the grounds, although prison officials expect that he will stick “close to home.”
Olmert is also subject to all the regulations regarding all prisoners – searches, handcuffs when outside prison grounds, etc. Prison officials quoted on Israel Radio said that they will treat Olmert fairly, but with all the required strictures.