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Olmert Sentencing in Holyland Case Minutes Away

Judge David Rosen says 'malignant disease must be rooted out,' calls bribe-taker 'a traitor.' Olmert: 'This is a sad day.'
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/13/2014, 9:12 AM

Olmert arrives for sentencing.
Olmert arrives for sentencing.
Flash 90

Ehud Olmert expected the worst before Tuesday's sentencing in the Holyland affair and released a statement through an attorney in which he said: "This is a sad day. A day in which an innocent man will be sentenced." Olmert was convicted on March 31 on two counts of receiving bribes.

Seven of the ten people convicted arrived in Tel Aviv's District Court Tuesday to receive their sentences from Judge David Rosen. They were all involved in corruption surrounding a large real estate deal known as the Holyland project, in Jerusalem.

The convicted men, besides Olmert, are former prime minister Olmert; Holyland entrepreneurs Hillel Cherney and Avigdor Kellner; Meir Rabin, who was the right-hand man of the late Shmuel Dachner, who was the state's witness in the trial; former Jerusalem city engineer, Uri Sheetrit; City councilor Eliezer Simhayof and Danny Dankner, former CEO of Bank Hapoalim.

Defendant #1, Entrepreneur Hillel Cherney was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail, and another 1.5 of them as a suspended sentence.

Defendant #2, Avigdor Kellner received 3 years in jail and another 2 years' suspended sentence.

Defendant #5, Meir Rabin, was sentenced to 5 years in jail and 2 years' suspended sentence.

Defendant #7, Uri Sheetrit, was sentenced to 7 years in jail, and 2 years' suspended sentence.

In his remarks before reading out the sentences, the judge made clear that stiff punishment would follow. The “malignant disease must be rooted out,” said the judge about the corruption that Ehud Olmert instituted at the Jerusalem Municipality together with defendand 8, the former city engineer.

"Bribery offenses contaminate the public sector; bribery causes the structure of government to collapse,” said the judge. He used the word “traitor” to describe a public official who takes bribes.

"People who receive bribes give rise to a feeling of disgust and cause the public to despise the state's institutions,” said Judge Rosen. “The taker of bribes is like a traitor who betrays the public trust that was given to him – trust without which a proper public service cannot be maintained. “

Before the sentencing, Rosen promised that he would hand down the “proper punishments.” The State Attorney's Office asked the judge to sentence Olmert to no less than six years in jail for the two counts of bribery he was convicted of. Attorney Yehonatan Tadmor, who represented the prosecution, explained that the sentences in the case need “to reverberate.”

The prosecution demanded that Danny Dankner be sentenced to 5-8 years in jail for three bribery counts; at least 8 years in jail and millions of dollars in fines for Cherney and Kellner; 5-7 years for Rabin and 3.5 years for Simhayof.

Shula Zaken, who was Olmert's bureau chief for many years, turned state witness in the late stages of the trial, and signed a plea deal that will send her to 11 months in jail. Her sentence will likely be given in a closed door session Thursday.

Two other men convicted in the case, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupoliansky and former Jerusalem councillor Avraham Feiner, will be sentenced on June 9, since they are both suffering from bad health.