Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left prison early Sunday days after a parole board granted him early release from his 27-month corruption sentence. Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati said Olmert, 71, was whisked away by security and driven home after serving 16 months. Olmert appeared gaunt and pale as he left the facility. Librati said the terms of Olmert's early release stipulate that for the next few months he must do volunteer work, appear before police twice a month, and not give interviews to the media or leave the country. Olmert will reportedly volunteer at a food bank and for a group that provides medical aid to needy families. However, President Reuven Rivlin could relieve him of the parole restrictions, reports the AP. "We are very happy, a great burden has been lifted and a great sorrow and pain has ended," Eti Livni, a friend of Olmert, told Army Radio.
Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice. The charges pertained to a period before he became premier in 2006. His departure from office in 2009 ended the last major Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu. He played a leading role in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and became prime minister in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke. A few hours after his release, a somber-looking Olmert was seen walking around a shopping mall in Tel Aviv. A public relations company representing the mall released photos of the former premier in a clothing store. It said people had greeted him and wished him well. (Read more Ehud Olmert stories.)