Shlomo Benizri Released from Jail Due to Overcrowding


benizriAfter two years and five months behind bars, former Minister Shlomo Benizri (Shas) is going home – he and some 600 additional prisoners are being released early due to crowding.

Benizri was scheduled for release this coming April, upon completing a four-year sentence, from which a third was deducted for good behavior, for accepting bribes, breach of trust, conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice.

The former minister’s path to freedom was paved by the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which decided last week to lower the number of prisoners and detainees the state would allow to be held in Israel’s prisons from 17,700 to 16,837.

The committee further decided that should the number of prisoners exceed the stipulated amount, those prisoners whose release dates were closest would be freed early, as long as their original sentences did not exceed four years. Those prisoners who were initially sentenced to serve more than four years but their sentences had been reduced to less than four years would also be eligible for early release under the committee’s decision. And indeed, the parole board decided to reduce Benizri’s sentence last month, placing him on the list of prisoners slated for administrative release.

In its decision, the parole board declared that Benizri did not pose a threat to society, and that he was considered a “positive” prisoner who fulfilled all his duties in prison. All the bodies asked to weigh in on Benizri’s parole, including the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Israel Prison Service, were unanimously in favor.

Over the last two months, Benizri has shared a cell with another famous politician – former president Moshe Katzav, who was convicted of rape and sentenced to seven years.

Not long before Benizri began serving his sentence, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai asked President Shimon Peres to pardon the fellow Shas member. The pardon was not granted.

Another prisoner included on the early release roster is police officer Shahar Mizrahi who was convicted of unlawfully killing a car thief while on duty. Mizrahi was only scheduled to be released in about a year. Two weeks ago, the parole board cut off a third of his sentence, making him, too, eligible for early release.

Mizrahi was initially sentenced by the Petach Tikva District Court to 15 months for the death of Mahmoud Ganayim, a car thief who police maintain was trying to run the officer over but witnesses say was merely parked. Mizrahi appealed the sentence, but the Supreme Court rejected his appeal, doubling his sentence to 30 months. Before his parole hearing, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch asked Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to secure a pardon for Mizrahi. Neeman passed the request on to the president for approval.

Israel Prison Service officials said Wednesday that there had been no administrative releases in recent months, mainly because 1,027 prisoners had been released in the prisoner swap with Hamas in October (in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit).

{Israel Hayom/ Newscenter}