Shlomo Benizri was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, committed during his tenure as labor and welfare minister. He was originally sentenced to 18 months in prison, but a subsequent appeal – by both the prosecution and the defense – saw the court choose to aggravate his sentence to four years.
Benizri's latest appeal claimed that the court chose to follow a new policy of rendering harsher sentences in cases involving offences the likes of which he was convicted of; without considering the specifics of the case.
The appeal included a legal brief compiled by top litigators, who claimed that the Supreme Court followed generic, strict guidelines in its sentencing, meant to create deterrence, but failing to consider the specifics of Benizri's own case.
The State, however, claimed that "the court adhered to the proper penalization policy in cases involving offenses such as these, opting to aggravate the original ruling as befitting the circumstances of the case. The sentencing does indeed set a new penalizing policy, but under the Israeli judicial system, that is something the Supreme Court does on a regular basis."
The nature of Benizri's case, as well as the fact that the defendant was a minister at the time of his transgressions, led the Supreme Court to find that the original sentence was insufficient in terms of creating the necessary deterrence, added the prosecution. "Given the increasing rate of corruption in society, the court found it necessary to set a higher 'price tag' for such offenses.
"Weighing matters of sentencing and penalization is a daily matter evident in every court ruling, making the (appeal's) claim that this is a brand new policy baseless," added the State's reply. The Supreme Court ruling, it concluded, did not set a new dogma and therefore does not merit another hearing.