Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert cleared of major charges
Jerusalem: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who had to resign in 2009 following corruption charges was today cleared by a court in two major cases but convicted of a lesser charge of breach of trust.
While 66-year-old Olmert was cleared of the main graft charges of bribery and falsely billing for foreign fund raising trips by the Jerusalem district court, he was found guilty of illegally granting favours to a business friend, during his tenure.
Olmert who was plagued by the scandals during his three years in office, was the first Israeli Prime Minister to face criminal charges.
Olmert was tried on three main charges of corruption dubbed the Rishon Tours affair, the Talansky or cash envelopes affair and the Investment Centre affair.
The indictment spanned events that allegedly took place during 2002-2006, first during Olmert’s tenure as mayor of Jerusalem and later when he served as a government minister.
Olmert still faces trial for his involvement in a further corruption scandal over property development in Jerusalem, known as the Holyland Affair, when he was mayor of the city. He has denied the charges, The Jerusalem Post reported.
While most criminal trials are heard by a single judge, in Olmert’s case, three judges Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad, Judge Jacob Zaban and Judge Moshe Sobel presided over the marathon trial, which took over two years and involved testimony from over 120 witnesses.
A state prosecutor, Eli Abarbanel, while defending his decision to charge Olmert, said that the prosecution had an obligation to present its position to the courts.
"We respect the court for its decision," he said in a press briefing following the trial. "The court has decided that it rejects our position on Olmert, and that is its right. But we had an obligation to present our position." Abarbanel added that the court "harshly condemned" Olmert for his role in the affairs.
Olmert was the Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, then became trade and industry minister in the Israeli cabinet before taking over as Prime Minister in 2006 after Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke.
"This was not corruption, there were no cash-filled envelopes, there was no bribery, there was no illicit use of funds," Olmert said.
"The Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs were the heart of the prosecution`s claim against me, and I was acquitted in both cases," he said.
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