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Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert cleared of major corruption charges

A Jerusalem court has cleared former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of two major corruption charges involving bribery, but found him guilty on a lesser count.

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Olmert arrives for the beginning of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court in May. (Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been cleared of two major corruption charges involving bribery, but found guilty of a smaller count of breach of trust, the Haaretz news site reported.

Jerusalem District Court today convicted Olmert over the so-called Investment Center affairs, which allege that Olmert granted personal favors to his old law partner Uri Messer during his term as industry, trade and labor minister – before he became prime minister in 2006.

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But the three judges presiding over the case acquitted Olmert of charges relating to alleged bribes from US businessman Joe Almaliah – and of double-billing Israeli charities and the state for fund-raising trips overseas, in cases dubbed Rishon Tours and the Talansky Affair.

The rulings mark the first time a former Israeli prime minister has been convicted in a criminal trial and, according to Al Jazeera, they end a five-year court saga that has plunged Israel into “uncharted legal waters” and proven that no person is above the law.

The network's correspondent in Jerusalem, Melissa Chan, said: “It's been a long, drawn-out out affair ... and it has added to the cynical view here that government is corrupt and it's true that other politicians have been convicted."

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Despite today's outcome, Olmert's day in court is not over. He is one of 16 people accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for the speedy approval of expanded construction plans for Jerusalem's Holyland building project, Haaretz reported.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120710/former-israeli-prime-minister-ehud-olmert