Former Israeli PM cleared on two corruption charges (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Charly Wegman 07/10/12)
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An Israeli court found former prime minister Ehud Olmert guilty on
one charge in a closely watched corruption case, but cleared him on
two other charges, in a verdict he hailed as just.
The decision to convict Olmert on the lesser charge of "breach of
trust" over favours he granted a colleague during his time as
minister could jeopardise Olmert´s political future.
But the Jerusalem district court´s acquittal of the former leader on
the two more serious corruption charges, related to his alleged
receipt of cash-stuffed envelopes and multiple-billing for trips
abroad, was seen as a victory for Olmert.
"We unanimously decided... to convict the defendant on the felony of
breach of trust," the three judges overseeing the case wrote in the
Olmert still faces a second trial over allegations he accepted bribes
during his time as Jerusalem mayor to smooth the way for the
construction of the massive Holyland residential complex in the city.
But his acquittal on the most serious charges against him, including
the allegations that forced him to resign as premier in 2008, was
described as a win for him by political observers.
Olmert faced three primary allegations in the first trial.
The first charge, on which he was convicted, related to favours he
granted a former colleague, Uri Messer, during his time as trade and
Olmert was also accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars
from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talanski, in return for
promoting his companies in Israel.
And he was alleged to have engaged in multiple-billing of trips
overseas, on occasions charging as many as four different
institutions for the same trip, in what was dubbed the Rishon Tours
But he was acquitted on both those charges, with judges saying the
evidence failed to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Olmert was
The former premier hailed the verdict outside the courtroom.
"There was no corruption, I received no money, there were no cash
envelopes, there was nothing from all of these things they tried to
attribute to me," Olmert told reporters.
"The Talanski and Rishon Tours affairs were at the heart of the
accusations levelled against me and I have been cleared on both these
cases. It was all false," he said.
He acknowledged his conviction on the third set of allegations, but
said the judgment described his behaviour as "procedural misconduct."
Following massive criticism and calls for his resignation, state
prosecutor Moshe Lador convened a news conference at which he
defended the decision to file the charges against the former premier.
"The law forces us to file indictments when the evidence is
substantial and there is a reasonable chance for conviction. This is
also our public duty," he said.
"Had we chosen to close these cases, and not to bring them to the
public and distinguished inquiry in the court, we would have been
abusing our office."
Lador rejected the charge that the state attorney´s office caused
Olmert to resign as prime minister, and said that he would not be
resigning and that prosecutors cannot be expected to resign any time
they do not win in court.
"In democracies, the court does not always accept the prosecution´s
stance," he said.
Israeli law states that a "public servant" found guilty of a "an act
of deception or breach of trust that harms the public" can be
imprisoned for three years.
But Israeli daily Haaretz pointed out that the average punishment for
people convicted of breach of trust is two months of community
Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, after which he
served as a cabinet minister, holding the trade and industry
portfolio as well as several others, before becoming premier in 2006.
He led the centre-right Kadima party into government, but resigned
from the premiership in September 2008 after police recommended that
he be indicted in several graft cases.
He has consistently proclaimed his innocence, calling the allegations
against him a "ruthless witch-hunt."
Deliberations on Olmert´s sentence are set to begin in September.
In the meantime, he faces allegations in a separate case that he
accepted bribes in return for helping the developers of the Holyland
complex in Jerusalem. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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