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
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee