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Supreme Court set to reject Abutbul’s appeal
By JEREMY SHARON
06/02/2014
J'lem court ruled in December that Abutbul committed fraud in mayoral win; decision would pave way for new Beit Shemesh election.
 
The Supreme Court on Wednesday night was set to deny an appeal by Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul, who asked the court to overrule a Jerusalem District Court decision calling for reelections in the city.

Channel 10 reported that the decision would mean Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar would have 30 days to agree on a date with the candidates for new elections.

The report could not be confirmed, and a court spokesman said no decision had yet been made.

However, several political sources involved in the Beit Shemesh elections seemed to believe that the report was correct.

Both Abutbul’s staff and the campaign team for Eli Cohen, who was defeated in the October election, said that they would not respond to the report until an official announcement was made.

The Beit Shemesh municipal elections became mired in controversy after police raided apartments in the city on election day and found a total of 161 identity cards in the hands of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) election activists.

In December, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that new elections should be held in the city, based on evidence pointing to widespread and systemic fraud.

Abutbul appealed the decision earlier this month, with his legal team claiming that there was insufficient evidence to justify a reelection for the entire city.

In their December decision, the panel of three Jerusalem District Court judges said that a “fraud industry” had been operating during the elections.

They ruled that the fraud was planned and so pervasive that, had it been absent, the results would have been different.

Ultra-Orthodox Abutbul won the election by just 956 votes.

The court also found that one of Abutbul’s campaign advisers, and many supporters, had received and sent text messages indicating likely knowledge and involvement in the fraud, including phrases such as “They’ve caught us,” when police arrested them.

Yesh Atid MK and Beit Shemesh resident Rabbi Dov Lipman said following the report that, “Justice has been served.”

“Beit Shemesh residents deserve a mayor who was elected democratically and fairly, and now this will be assured. I am proud of our state, that took a strong stand against fraud and corruption.”

Yonah Jeremy Bob and Sam Sokol contributed to this report.
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