Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for bribery today, capping a stunning fall from grace for one of the most powerful men in the country. According to the verdict, in the years before Olmert became prime minister in 2006, millions of dollars illegally changed hands to promote a series of real estate projects, including a controversial housing development in Jerusalem that required a radical change in zoning laws and earned developers tax breaks and other benefits. At the time, Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry and trade. He was accused of taking bribes to push the project forward.
The 68-year-old Olmert said he will appeal both the verdict and the sentence to Israel's Supreme Court. Shortly before the sentencing, Olmert's spokesman insisted the former premier was innocent. "This is a sad day where a serious and unjust verdict is expected to be delivered against an innocent man," he said. A series of other former government officials, developers, and businesspeople were sentenced to terms of between three and five years.