Finance minister grilled for fourth time

By JPOST STAFF, ETGAR LEFKOVITS
April 12, 2007 10:32

Hirchson unlikely to attend March of Living in wake of embezzlement scandal.

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Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson was questioned for a fourth time on Thursday morning on suspicion of embezzling funds during his term as director of Nili, an organization that operated educational institutions under the umbrella of the National Labor Federation. Meanwhile, a government watchdog group on Wednesday again asked the High Court of Justice to suspend Hirchson from office in the wake of the embezzlement scandal. The court had turned down a previous petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government last month on the grounds that it was too early in the investigation to forcibly suspend Hirchson. In the wake of the corruption charges that may force him out of office, officials said Wednesday that Hirchson was not expected to attend next week's March of the Living in Poland, officials said Wednesday. The minister's spokesman, Ido Hartuv, said Wednesday that Hirchson has not yet decided whether or not he would attend the march, which will take place on Monday. A spokeswoman for the March of the Living in Jerusalem said Wednesday that Minister of Pensioners Affairs Rafi Eitan and Education Minister Yuli Tamir would be representing the Israeli government at the march, with Eitan leading the delegation and expected to deliver the keynote address at the event. The group spokesperson said the organization has not taken a position on Hirchson's possible attendance, noting that he was not an official in the organization. Leaders of the organization in the US were not available for comment on Wednesday. The 19th annual march from Auschwitz to Birkenau is expected to be attended by 8,000 Jewish youth from 40 countries, including a delegation of 1,800 Israeli high school students. Besides the large Israeli delegation, the solemn procession will be attended by youth from the US, Canada, Australia, the CIS, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, France, Morocco, Turkey, Hong Kong and Japan. The Polish government, which is hosting the event, will also be sending students to take part in the march, which coincides with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. Polish Ambassador to Israel Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska said Wednesday that Poland had "no position" concerning Hirchson's attendance at the ceremony. As in years past, former chief Rabbi and Holocaust survivor Yisrael Meir Lau will also take part in the three-kilometer march from Auschwitz to the larger neighboring camp at Birkenau, which housed most of the death camp's gas chambers. "The March of the Living is the strongest protest of Jewish youth all over the world against the denial of the Holocaust," Hirchson is quoted as saying on the March of the Living Web site. "These young people will be the bridge between the survivors and the next generation."


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