Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided on Wednesday not to appeal the
acquittal of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on charges of fraud and breach of
The decision was the final nail in the coffin for attempts
to convict Liberman of a crime, ending 17 years of legal problems that have
Weinstein’s decision followed a defeat for the prosecution
on November 6, in which the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court not only acquitted the
foreign minister, but scolded the state for a weak and poorly prepared
The attorney-general said he made the decision on the basis of a
joint recommendation from Moshe Lador, who was the state attorney (and thus head
of the state prosecution) until Monday, and Lador’s replacement, Shai Nitzan.
This aspect of the announcement refuted widespread speculation in the media that
Lador would insist on appealing, as he did for the prosecution’s overall loss in
the Jerusalem corruption trial against Ehud Olmert.
Weinstein said that
in general the prosecution disfavors appealing, and that he and those advising
him believed that an appeal would lose.
He noted that since the Jerusalem
Magistrate’s Court had made findings of fact that were different from the
prosecution’s assertions regarding the Belarus Ambassador Affair that led to
Liberman’s indictment, it was unlikely that a higher court would reverse the
acquittal. Appeals courts rarely reverse lower courts, and even more rarely
reverse lower courts based on factual issues, as opposed to mistakes in
application of the relevant law.
Weinstein said that he stood by his
decision to indict Liberman, and noted that the court had slammed the foreign
minister’s behavior as “unfit, unethical and not up to the standards befitting a
Giora Aderet, one of Liberman’s lawyers, welcomed
Weinstein’s decision. “The acquittal by the three judges of the magistrate’s
court was correct legally and factually, and the attorney- general was correct not to
appeal,” he said. “The decision brings to an end an era of many years of
investigations and proceedings against Liberman and we are happy that this is
the final chord.”
The prosecution had alleged that in October 2008,
then-ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh gave Liberman a note with information
about a state investigation into money-laundering allegations against him, and
that Liberman destroyed the note, failed to report Ben-Aryeh and then helped him
procure promotions in the Foreign Service. According to the prosecution,
Liberman gave instructions to then-deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon saying
that Ben-Aryeh was his preferred candidate for ambassador to Latvia.
in a 115-page opinion, Judges Hagit Mack-Kalmanovitz, Yitzhak Shimoni and Eitan
Kornhauser ruled that Ben-Aryeh had been solely responsible for initiating the
incident, and that Liberman did not know the source of the note was a Justice
Ministry investigation against him.
While the prosecution and the defense
debated whether Liberman and Ben-Aryeh spoke at all, the court said the state
had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt from Ben-Aryeh’s statements that he had
told Liberman that the investigation originated from the Justice Ministry as
opposed to from Belarus or from a media source.
The court also said there
was no proof that Liberman tried to inappropriately help Ben-Aryeh to obtain the
post as ambassador to Latvia, and that Ben-Aryeh was qualified to hold the post
in any event.
The court did find that Liberman “acted inappropriately,”
but added that “the gravity of the conflict of interest” did not merit a
The judges rejected testimony that Ayalon brought against
Liberman, and said that it was contradicted by other top Foreign Ministry
officials. They questioned Ayalon’s abrupt shift from defending Liberman’s
innocence in an interview with Channel 1 while still working for Liberman, to
proclaiming his guilt shortly after Liberman booted him out of Yisrael Beytenu.
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