Liberman trial scheduled to finish in July

If acquitted Liberman has indicated that PM will reinstate him as the head of the Foreign Ministry.

By
March 19, 2013 03:16
3 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman leaving court after first hearing in corruption trial, February 17, 2013.

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.

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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.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court set the dates following a joint request to fast-track the trial by both Liberman’s attorneys and the state.

At the 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 sworn in.

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.

In 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.

Ben-Aryeh’s subsequent ambassadorial appointment to Latvia is what led to the current case, which has come to be called the Belarus Ambassador Affair.

Liberman was 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 consulates abroad.

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.

Ayalon, who barely knew Ben-Aryeh, then acted, based on Liberman’s encouragement and documents before the committee, to try to ensure his appointment, the indictment said.

The document did not specify what actions Ayalon took in that regard, although the issue will probably be fleshed out by witnesses in court.

Ayalon is expected to be one of the star witnesses against Liberman among several top officials from the Foreign


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