Liberman trial starts 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The trial of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman is set to finish in July,
barring any unforeseen changes, according to a scheduling order issued by the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
The order is significant because it means
that, if found innocent, Liberman could return to running the Foreign Ministry
in a matter of months.
In addition to four dates in April and the
beginning of May, the questioning of witnesses was scheduled to occur on May 29,
June 12, June 24 and June 26.
If necessary, the submitting of additional
evidence and the closing arguments were set to take place July 9-11.
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court set the dates following a joint request to
fast-track the trial by both Liberman’s attorneys and the state.
trial’s first hearing, on February 17, the court decided that the trial would
start by the end of April.
After years of investigation and build-up,
Liberman pleaded not guilty at the opening of his trial and denied the charges
of fraud and breach of public trust.
The end-date of the trial has
precluded Liberman from being appointed a minister as the new government is
If Liberman is convicted and his actions are found to
constitute moral turpitude, he will have to resign from the Knesset and leave
politics for a minimum of seven years, sidelining and possibly ending the
political career of a man who is not much more than a heartbeat away from the
post of prime minister.
But if he is acquitted and there are no appeals,
Liberman has indicated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will reinstate him
as the head of the Foreign Ministry.
On January 27, Jerusalem District
Court president Shlomit Dotan announced that three judges – Hagit Mack-
Kalmanovitz, Yitzhak Shimoni and Eitan Kornhauser – would hear the case instead
of the one judge required by law. This followed a request by Attorney- General
Yehuda Weinstein, due to the “public interest” relating to the matter.
the event of an appeal, the decision of three judges is harder to overturn than
that of a single judge.
In a twist that could foreshadow at least one of
the judges calling for a lenient sentence, Mack-Kalmanovitz convicted former
Belarus ambassador Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh on charges of obstruction of justice and
breach of public trust, and sentenced him in October to only four months of
community service for having illegally passed secret documents to Liberman in
2008 about a money laundering investigation against him.
subsequent ambassadorial appointment to Latvia is what led to the current case,
which has come to be called the Belarus Ambassador Affair.
indicted on December 27 for fraud and breach of public trust. The updated
indictment released two weeks after the first draft alleged that he failed to
report that Ben-Aryeh had illegally shown him the secret material, and
subsequently helped Ben-Aryeh obtain the ambassador to Latvia position as a
“payment” after the fact.
After the initial draft indictment was
announced on December 13, Liberman resigned as foreign minister and waived his
parliamentary immunity. The draft indicated that Liberman discussed the possible
ambassadorship with Ben-Aryeh when the latter asked him for advice, and told
Ben-Aryeh he would support his candidacy.
Next, the indictment said that
Liberman summoned former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon and told him they
should appoint Ben-Aryeh to the Latvian post. Ayalon, in his capacity as deputy
foreign minister, served as chairman of the ministry’s seven-person “higher
appointments” committee responsible for filling vacancies at embassies and
According to the indictment, Liberman told Ayalon that
Ben-Aryeh was the most qualified candidate for the job, although he did not
mention to Ayalon the earlier incident in which Ben-Aryeh had leaked to Liberman
the information about the money laundering investigation.
barely knew Ben-Aryeh, then acted, based on Liberman’s encouragement and
documents before the committee, to try to ensure his appointment, the indictment
The document did not specify what actions Ayalon took in that
regard, although the issue will probably be fleshed out by witnesses in
Ayalon is expected to be one of the star witnesses against
Liberman among several top officials from the Foreign