Sharon's Son Sentenced to Jail

An Israeli court sentenced the eldest son of ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to nine months in prison Tuesday for illegally raising funds for his father's 1999 political campaign.

Omri Sharon pleaded guilty in November to falsifying corporate documents, perjury and violating party funding laws. Under a plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges of fraud and breach of trust but demanded imprisonment on the other counts.

Prosecutors claimed Omri Sharon received more than $1.3 million from groups in Israel and overseas, an amount far exceeding legal limits. Ariel Sharon was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

Omri Sharon resigned his parliamentary seat in January in anticipation of the sentencing.

The Tel Aviv District Court also sentenced Omri Sharon to nine months on probation, to start after his release from prison. He was fined the equivalent of $64,000.

Omri Sharon, 41, will not have to serve his jail sentence immediately because his father is in a coma after a massive stroke Jan. 4.

The charges carried a maximum of five years in prison. Under Israeli law, a legislator convicted of an offense defined as one of "moral turpitude" must resign.

"This is a swamp of political corruption and it must be dried up," Israel media cited Tel Aviv District Court Judge Edna Beckenstein as writing in the ruling.

Omri Sharon's lawyer, Navit Negev, called the sentence "exceptionally harsh" and said she would appeal.

Emmanuel Gross, a legal expert at Haifa University, said any court would have taken the elder Sharon's comatose state into account when sentencing the son.

"The violations are very grave ... on the other hand, his personal situation cannot be ignored," Gross told Army Radio.

Omri Sharon's activities were meant to conceal illegal contributions during the 1999 campaign, where his father won the chairmanship of the Likud Party, becoming its ultimately successful candidate for prime minister in 2001 national elections.

The younger Sharon told the Tel Aviv court last month that he was inexperienced in politics when he began working to get his father elected as prime minister.

"I have made grave mistakes and I'm sorry about that," he said.