"I have lost my assets, my financial situation is dire and I do not intend to return to politics. I ask of you, honorable president, to take into consideration my long years of contribution to the State of Israel and alleviate the punishment that is too heavy for me to carry," Benizri wrote in his appeal.
Benizri added, "I thought it right to turn to your honorable president in a request to be pardoned; a request that stems from pain and hardship." Benizri explained his request and mentioned several attenuating circumstances, which he thought were not taken under consideration in the High Court's ruling.
These circumstances included the time that has elapsed since committing the offences and the end of legal proceedings (between 8-12 years), the acquittal of the majority of offenses he was charged with and the fact that despite his acquittal, he was still "convicted" of these offenses by the "media trial" he was subjected to for many years.
Benizri mentioned his personal circumstances, his large contribution to the state and its citizens, while especially assisting the weak sectors of society, as a private individual, a rabbi and a public figure.
Benizri also criticized the decision to imprison him and wrote, "The High Court used this case as public deterrence while not giving any consideration to the many attenuating circumstances. It placed a 'higher price tag' as the High Court called it, which was irregular to the accepted punishment at that particular time."
The former minister slammed the way his trial was covered in the media and wrote, "Benizri was convicted by his 'media trial' many years before given an actual verdict.
"The media trampled his good reputation by publishing many articles that contained accusations from which he was acquitted – both during the long police investigation and during the trial. After his acquittal from these charges, the media did not bother to fix the grievances it perpetrated, while focusing instead of his conviction," he wrote.
Benizri began serving his prison term on September 1, after being sentenced to four years in Maasiyahu Prison. Benizri was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, committed during his tenure as labor and welfare minister. He was charged of receiving funds from contractor Moshe Sela in exchange for providing him with information to help his business.
The former minister 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.
In the verdict, Judge Edmond Levy explained, "The growing corruption in the Israeli government institutions required action by setting a higher price tag. We are sorry for the minister, whose top and influential position deteriorated, and we are sorry for his family members," he wrote.