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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map