Israeli court upholds jail sentence on Sharon's son, but trims term to be served

The eldest son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon must serve jail time for illegal fundraising during his father's 1999 primary campaign, an appeals court ruled Monday, but it cut the original sentence from nine months to seven months.

Omri Sharon's lawyers said they would consider taking their appeal against the sentence to the Supreme Court. The judges in Monday's decision, at the Tel Aviv district court, delayed implementation of the prison term for a month to give defense lawyers a chance to appeal.

"The reduction in sentence is significant (but) we think the appropriate punishment in this case is community service, not imprisonment," Omri Sharon's attorney, Navit Negev, told Israel Radio.

Omri Sharon, 41, oversaw parts of fundraising activities and the campaign that culminated in his father's victory in the 1999 Likud Party primary. Prosecutors claimed he received more than $1.3 million (euro1 million) from groups in Israel and overseas for his father's campaign, amounts that far exceeded the legal ceiling for contributions.

The primary victory paved the way for Ariel Sharon's election as prime minister in early 2001 and his re-election two years later. His son served as a Likud lawmaker during that time. The elder Sharon, who has been in a coma since suffering a stroke in January 2006, was not indicted.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Omri Sharon pleaded guilty to falsifying corporate documents, perjury and violating party funding laws.

In exchange, the state dropped charges of fraud and breach of trust but demanded imprisonment on the other counts, which carried a maximum of five years in prison.

Negev said the sentence should reflect the circumstances at the time of the offenses. Omri Sharon's mother was dying from cancer and he was a newcomer to politics.