Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is heading to prison after a long corruption trial that riveted the nation.
A Tel Aviv court fined Olmert nearly $300,000 and sentenced the former prime minister to six years in prison for taking bribes while he served as the mayor of Jerusalem in the 1990s.
Olmert is the first former Israeli leader to be sentenced to time in prison.
State Prosecutor Liat Ben Ari told reporters that the message of the court is clear.
“No one is above the law,” she says, “and those who commit crimes will be punished.”
The judge who delivered the punishment said “a public servant who accepts bribes is akin to a traitor.” He said those who take bribes are a disgrace, and they cause the public to lose faith in the government.
But Ehud Olmert, who is 68 years old, claims innocence. His lawyer Eli Zohar describes the verdict as unjust and vows to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court.
“He did not take a bribe and he did not receive a bribe,” Zohar says.
The Olmert case is the latest in a series of convictions of high-ranking Israeli officials on corruption charges. Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav is serving seven years in prison for rape and Avraham Hirchson, a former finance minister, served more than three years for embezzlement.