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Israel's ex-PM Ehud Olmert granted early release from prison

The parole board of Israel's Prison Service has granted former prime minister Ehud Olmert early release from his 27-month corruption sentence, in perhaps the final chapter of a fall from grace which forced him from office amid the last serious round of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Barring any unforeseen developments, Olmert will walk free on Sunday July 2, said Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati.

Israel's Justice Ministry had objected to the 71-year-old's early release after asking police last week to investigate whether he committed a "criminal offence" when his lawyer was caught leaving the prison with a chapter of his unpublished book that contained "sensitive security issues".

But the prison service decided otherwise and ordered that Olmert, who was recently rushed to hospital after complaining of chest pains, be released.

Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case which accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project years before he became premier in 2006. His imprisonment ended Israel's last serious peace efforts with the Palestinians and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.

Olmert was a longtime fixture in Israel's hawkish right wing when he began taking a dramatically more conciliatory line toward the Palestinians more than a decade ago.

He played a leading role in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and became prime minister in January 2006 after then-premier Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke.

"It's the end of an era. Olmert was definitely an active prime minister who really left a mark on Israeli politics," said Abraham Diskin, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who predicted that Olmert's voice would still be heard.

"He will leave an impact on contemporary Israeli politics, but he will not be active as a full-time politician."

AP

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