Tony Blair vouches for convict Ehud Olmert in corruption case


Tony Blair has intervened in Ehud Olmert’s corruption case, providing a character reference for the discredited former Israeli Prime Minister.

A letter written by the former British premier in support of Olmert praised the ex-Kadima leader’s efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

It also claimed the two men had enjoyed a relationship which went “beyond that between heads of government”.

Mr Blair’s letter, presented in court by Olmert’s lawyers on Tuesday, claimed the links were “based on friendship and trust with a clear understanding of the needs and sensitivities of the other side”.

A Jerusalem court convicted Olmert of fraud and breach of trust last month . He pleaded for leniency this week, asking judges not to impose a prison sentence. He said the shame and damage to his reputation had been sufficient punishment.

He asked: “What do I say to my grandchild who hears bad things about me from his friends?”

Olmert had been acquitted of the charges in 2012, when the court said that businessman Morris Talansky gave him around £400,000 during his terms as Jerusalem major and government minister, but that this did not prove criminal intent on Olmert's part.

But a retrial was prompted by the evidence of Olmert’s former office manager Shula Zaken, who said some of the cash had been used to pay her salary.

Olmert is likely to be handed a jail sentence, to be added to the six years’ imprisonment he already faces following conviction in another case, which he is appealing.

A year ago he was found guilty of receiving bribes to pave the way for the construction of a large housing estate in Jerusalem when he was mayor of the city.

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