Itongadol.- In view of television cameras and photographers from a media gaggle eager for a shot of history in the making, former prime minister Ehud Olmert walked into Ma\’asiyahu jail in Ramle on Monday to begin serving an 18-month sentence for graft-related offenses.
Olmert becomes the first former prime minister to be sent to prison for criminal offenses.
With large crowds of people waiting about an hour just outside the jail, minivans carrying Olmert and his security detail backed into a driveway in front of the main entrance to the prison.
Mindful of the former premier\’s wish to preserve what is left of his legacy, the minivans tried to block as much as possible the view of Olmert entering the prison.
A half-minute after the minivans arrived, Olmert got out of one of the cars, walked up a ramp toward the entrance, and disappeared into the prison\’s reception room. For 10 seconds, Olmert was seen walking up the ramp, sending a buzz throughout the assembled crowd of onlookers and journalists.
In those few seconds, all of the assembled photographers and video camerapeople were taking pictures and recording footage.
Just hours before he is due to begin serving a prison sentence, Olmert released a videotaped statement to the press on Monday professing his innocence of graft and bribery charges.
“At this hour, it is important for me to say once again that I am innocent of charges that I took bribes,” Olmert said in the clip. “None of the charges stemmed from the time during which I served as prime minister.”
Olmert said that his jail sentence “is an unusual, serious event that shows the strength of Israeli democracy.”
The former prime minister hinted in his statement that he was the victim of a prosecution that was eager to remove him from office.
Olmert said that “my case snowballed for reasons that were not related to legal considerations.”
The former premier acknowledged "making mistakes" though he added "they were not of a criminal nature."
His sentence is set to run for at least 18 months, but depending on possible appeals by Olmert and by the state, could run as long as 27 months.
Olmert will stay in a special wing with extra security outside his cell at all times – though the Prisons Service says it is taking over his security from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – and only inmates who have gone through a strict screening process will live in his wing.
Some of the approved inmates include other defendants from the Holyland real estate corruption case that is responsible for 18 months, or the lion’s share, of his jail time.
The former prime minister’s wing will also have a separate area for eating, medical and other activities from the majority of the inmates.
Yet other than these measures designed to protect Olmert physically and to protect state secrets, by preventing him from being in a position where other inmates could extort information from him, the Prisons Service has said he will mostly be treated like other prisoners.