Israel’s ex-PM Ehud Olmert granted early release from prison

The parole board of Israel’s Prison Service on Thursday granted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert early release from his 27-month corruption sentence, in perhaps the final chapter of a stunning fall from grace that forced him from office amid the last serious round of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Barring any unforeseen developments, Olmert will walk free on Sunday, July 2, said Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati.

Israel’s Justice Ministry had objected to Olmert’s early release after asking police last week to investigate whether he committed a “criminal offense” when his lawyer was caught leaving the prison with a chapter of his unpublished book that contained “sensitive security issues.”

But the prison service decided otherwise and ordered that the 71-year-old Olmert, who was recently rushed to the hospital after complaining of chest pains, be released for good behavior.

Olmert’s attorney Shani Illouz said he was very pleased to be reunited with his family soon.

“The board accepted each and every one of our arguments,” she said. “Ehud Olmert will be released on Sunday.”

Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project years in Jerusalem and obstructing justice. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before he became premier in 2006. His imprisonment ended the last major Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.

Olmert was a longtime fixture in Israel’s hawkish right wing when he began taking a dramatically more conciliatory line toward the Palestinians more than a decade ago. He played a leading role in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and became prime minister in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke.

He resigned amid a corruption scandal that clouded his administration. He was later charged, convicted and imprisoned.

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