The former minister began serving his sentence at the Maasiyahu Prison on September 1, 2009. He was initially scheduled to be released in September 2013.
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Benizri has spent the last few weeks sharing a cell with former President Moshe Katsav who has been convicted of rape and sentenced to seven years in prison. Before Katsav entered Maasiyahu he met with Benizri, who was on leave, in Jerusalem to discuss life behind bars.
Benizri in September 2009 (Photo: Michael Kramer)
The State Prosecutor's Office made no objections to the reduction in Benizri's sentence and even praised him for "lending an ear to the rest of the prisoners in his wing." The State's representative noted that Benizri is highly respected among the inmates.
In explaining its decision, the Parole Board noted that the former minister gives Torah, ethics, science and Judaism classes for the other prisoners.
Benizri with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Shas leaders (Photo: Courtesy of kikar.net)
Benizri was convicted in April 2008 for accepting bribes, breach of trust, conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice. He was found guilty of accepting funds and benefits from contractor Moshe Sela during his stint as Labor and Welfare Minister and in exchange provided him with information.
The Jerusalem District Court initially sentenced him to 20 months in prison but the Supreme Court raised it to four years.
Benizri's son, Netanel, was overjoyed to learn of his father's early release but regretted the fact he could not be released next month, as expected. He claims that an earlier release was prevented because of the Shalit deal "which has emptied the prison." The situation had apparently caused a freeze in all administrative releases which are enabled when the prison is at full capacity.
Netanel revealed that his father is likely to return to public life after his release and noted that "he already has a schedule filled with lectures, Torah lessons, and wedding services."
Meanwhile, associates of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef estimated that Benizri will not be returning to any position within the party at the foreseeable future but will resume his Torah classes.
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