(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz got tired of waiting on Tuesday and informed former Health Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Shlomo Benizri that he was going to indict him on charges of accepting a bribe, fraud and breach of faith and other crimes.
Mazuz had scheduled a hearing for Benizri and his lawyer, Yair Ze'ev Wimisberg for Tuesday, but they failed to show up. He had scheduled a hearing two weeks earlier, on January 16, but they failed to show up for that one also.
Benizri had appealed to the High Court for an interim injunction to postpone the hearing, but the court rejected the appeal on January 15.
On May 29, 2005, Mazuz announced he had decided to indict Benizri and his spiritual mentor, Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, on charges that he had established a give-and-take relationship with Benizri's neighbor, Moshe Sela, a building contractor and contractor for foreign workers. Benizri allegedly accepted favors from Sela and later paid him back with inside information about foreign worker quotas that that gave him an advantage over his competitors.
At the time, Mazuz had announced that his decision to indict Benizri was not final and that he would first grant the former minister a hearing. Since then, Mazuz charged, Benizri had requested one postponement after another on the grounds that he had switched lawyers. On the last two dates, he simply did not show up without advance warning.
In another development on Tuesday, Mazuz announced he had ordered police to investigate an allegedly illegal trip that MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) made to Lebanon last month. Bishara had already traveled to Lebanon nine months earlier to attend the funeral for slain former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. Mazuz let the first trip go by on the grounds that it had been a bereavement call. He warned him at the time, however, that it was against the law for MKs to visit enemy countries.
In the wake of the reports of a second trip, made after Mazuz' original explanation, the Attorney General decided to investigate the affair.
In June, Mazuz ordered police to investigate a trip to Lebanon by MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash-Ta'al.) Tibi was also let off with a warning for an earlier trip to Lebanon.