Israel ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman
fights for his political career as fraud trial begins

 

Jerusalem

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s firebrand former foreign minister, began the fight for his political life in a tiny Jerusalem courtroom earlier today, as he pleaded not guilty to fraud charges.

Mr Lieberman is hoping that at least a partial acquittal will allow him to return to government in a matter of weeks.

In court 216, the two cases immediately before Mr Lieberman’s in Jerusalem’s Municipal complex involved men wearing handcuffs and ankle shackles.

Mr Lieberman – who perhaps looked slightly nervous as he arrived - was afforded better treatment, bypassing the airport-style security along with his six or seven lawyers at the entrance to the building.

The Soviet-born politician – who already has a conviction for assaulting a 12 year-old boy several years ago – heard prosecutors allege he failed to report a leak of classified documents by Zeev Ben Aryeh, at the time Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, which detailed a another police probe into Mr Lieberman’s affairs. In return, it is alleged, Mr Ben Aryeh was offered the post of ambassador to Latvia.

In a written submission to the court, Mr Lieberman denied that he had asked then deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon to advance Mr Ben Aryeh’s appointment in the ministry’s appointments committee.

His defence team argued that, “the defendant did not exceed his authority in any way, nor did he commit any criminal offence.” Mr Lieberman formally entered a plea of, “not guilty on all counts.”

Mr Lieberman stepped down as foreign minister in December after the he was indicted, but vowed at the time that he would return to government after being acquitted. Last month he shared a stage with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as their combined parties Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu won most seats in the country’s general election.

Mr Netanyahu is currently working on forming a new coalition government, but is reserving a space in the event of Mr Lieberman’s return – it is thought that he favours a return to the foreign ministry.

Mr Netanyahu may appoint a temporary foreign minister and incongruously, there is a chance that Mr Lieberman could be convicted but still become a member of the next government. He is hoping that even if found guilty he will avoid the further stain that he acted with ‘moral turpitude’.

If his actions are considered to fall within the definition of moral turpitude, Mr Lieberman’s political career will be over – he will be forced by law not only to give up his ambition of serving in the cabinet, but he will also have to resign as an member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

The trial will become even more of a political drama later in the week when Mr Ayalon gives evidence on behalf of the prosecution. Speaking on Saturday, Mr Ayalon insisted that Mr Lieberman had insisted on Mr Ben Aryeh’s appointment should be pushed through. Mr Ayalon said that he had, “resisted the pressure” and insisted that the job shouldn’t be given to Mr Ben Aryeh. He added that Mr Lieberman , “did not earn the trust of the international community and therefore should not have a second term as foreign minister.”

Mr Lieberman had notably testy relationships with foreign counterparts, and is thought to have had particularly frosty meetings with the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Mr Ayalon – a former Israeli ambassador to the United States – was removed from Likud-Beiteinu list ahead of last month’s election.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning