Israel’s Olmert charged with graft

(AL JAZEERA)   The Israeli authorities have charged Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, with corruption.

The indictments include illegal acceptance of funds from an American supporter and double-billing for foreign trips, the attorney-general’s office said on Sunday.

“The attorney-general … has decided to press charges against former prime minister Ehud Olmert,” a statement from the office of Menahem Mazuz said.

“The charge sheet was presented today in Jerusalem district court.”

Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister to be indicted. Shula Zaken, Olmert’s personal secretary, was also charged.

The allegations initially occurred during Olmert’s premiership, and forced him to step down.

He is suspected of committing the crimes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem and afterwards when a cabinet minister, before he became prime minister in 2006.

Legacy

Gil Hoffman, the chief political correspondent for The Jerusalem Post newspaper, told Al Jazeera: “On the one hand it is embarrassing that our politicians do such things, but on the other hand it shows that this is a country where you can’t get away with such things any more. And I think that’s something Israelis can be proud of.”

Hoffman added that the charges would overshadow any other legacy Olmert might have had.

“[Olmert] negotiated with the Palestinians until the very end. He offered them a deal that they had never been offered before – 100 per cent of the West Bank, 30,000 refugees coming into the final border of the state of Israel, and Jerusalem under international stewardship.

“Had they accepted that deal that really would have been a wonderful legacy for him that would really overshadow this corruption even if he ended up going to jail, because the impact of achieving a peace agreement would have been huge.

“But because they turned this down, his legacy will be this corruption.”

It is the first time that Olmert has been officially charged despite several corruption investigations conducted into his affairs.

Mazuz is leaving office in four months’ time and analysts have said that he wanted to begin proceedings before he vacates his post.

Olmert could spend up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200983014538891475.html

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