Israel's state prosecution said on Tuesday that it would appeal the acquittal of Ehud Olmert on corruption charges lowering chances the ex-premier will make a surprise run in looming polls.
Olmert, who stepped down as prime minister in 2008 after police recommended he be indicted in several graft cases, was in July found guilty of breach of trust but cleared on two more serious charges, related to alleged receipt of cash-stuffed envelopes and multiple-billing for trips abroad.
The Jerusalem District Court sentenced him on September 24 to a suspended one year jail term and fined him 75,300 shekels ($19,200).
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the state prosecutor's office informed Olmert's legal representative that "a final decision has been made on Mr. Olmert, to appeal both the verdict and the sentence," a justice ministry statement read.
According to the communique, the prosecution has not yet decided on its extent of the appeal -- whether it would be on one or both of the acquittals.
The justice ministry recalled that state prosecutor Eli Abarbanel had said at the end of Olmert's sentencing that his office was considering an appeal, noting that "this should not come as a surprise."
While appeals can be filed up to 45 days of sentencing, the timing of Tuesday's announcement seemed to be intended to avoid any appearance the decision was political as the clock ticks down to a January 22 general elections.
Opinion polls suggest that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rightwing and ultra-Orthodox parties allied with him are set for a comfortable victory, but former Kadima leader Olmert at the helm of a centrist party was considered a viable threat to Netanyahu.
Olmert had said in the past he did not intend to return to politics, but sources close to him in recent days said he was facing pressure to run.
He still faces allegations in a separate case that he accepted bribes in return for helping the developers of the Holyland complex in Jerusalem, and would therefore not be able to assume the position of a minister, but could be a member of parliament or theoretically even a prime minister.