Sentencing for Olmert stuns Israel

| Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced on Tuesday to six years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of about $290,000. He was convicted in March of taking bribes from real estate developers when he was mayor of Jerusalem more than a decade ago.

Describing Olmert's acts as moral turpitude, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen said the higher the public post of an individual, the tougher the punishment for bribery should be.

The judge's harsh words and the prospect of jail time for a former prime minister — Olmert served in the post from 2006 to 2009 — sent shock waves through Israel's political establishment and society, with many referring to it as a sad day in the nation's history.

This is the first time such a high-level Israeli official has been found guilty of a breach-of-trust crime, although former president Moshe Katsav is serving a seven-year sentence for rape, and several government ministers have been convicted of crimes.

“This is a sad day for me, personally,” President Shimon Peres told Israeli reporters during a state visit to Norway. “But this is the legal process which is custom in democratic states.”

Six other officials in the case were sentenced, including Olmert's chief engineer, Uri Shitrit, who will serve seven years. The others received three- to five-year sentences. Additional officials, including another former Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski, will be sentenced in the coming months for their parts in the affair.

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