Benizri. 'As a member of the Sephardic community...'
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Ofer Amram
Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai appealed to President Shimon Peres on Sunday evening, asking him to grant amnesty to former Minister Shlomo Benizri, who has been convicted of taking a bribe and sentenced to four years in prison.
"As a public figure, as a member of the Sephardic community, and as the deputy prime minister, I believe there is no other request for mercy which is more justified. Accepting it is not only required and justified by any criterion, it will also carry a remedy for our friend Benizri and his family, as well as, and especially for a very large circle of citizens," Yishai wrote on behalf of his movement.
An official at the President's Residence told Ynet that Yishai's appeal had yet to reach Peres.
Benizri was convicted of taking a bribe from contractor Moshe Sela during his tenure as labor and welfare minister. The former minister received many benefits from the contractor, from large sums of money, through electric appliances, to cleaning services.
"I do not wish to mention the feelings of discrimination, the 'second Israel', the sense of persecution and the bleeding social wound," Yishai wrote to Peres. "The heavy punishment given to Benizri surprised many. He is an outstanding and popular public figure, who helped many. If there is any justification for the amnesty institution – it's in this case."
It should be noted that Shas' appeal is not legally valid, as an official request for a pardon can only be submitted by the convict or one of his family members.
Several hours earlier, Benizri himself appealed the Supreme Court, asking that the execution of his sentence be delayed by a month and a half. The former minister explained that he needed the extra time in order to complete medical tests, spend the High Holidays with his family, and be present at the birth of two of his grandchildren.
About a month ago, Supreme Court judges aggravated the former Shas minister's sentence after he was convicted of taking a bribe. Justice Edmond Levy explained that "the increasing corruption in the Israeli government institutions requires us to do something by setting a higher price tag."