Liberman's political future at risk as trial begins

February 17, 2013 06:53

Ex-FM set to deny all charges; if convicted and his actions are found to constitute moral turpitude he will have to resign.

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The trial of Yisrael Beytenu leader and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman starts on Sunday in a dramatic case that will determine his political fate and will likely go down in history with the cases of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former president Moshe Katsav.

After months of speculation about a plea bargain agreement, Liberman is expected to plead not guilty and deny all the charges against him.

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If Liberman, 54, is convicted and his actions are found to constitute moral turpitude, he will have to resign from the Knesset and be out of 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.

On January 27, Jerusalem District Court President Shlomit Dotan announced the date of the first hearing and that three judges will hear the case instead of the one required by law, following 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.

Liberman was indicted on December 27 for fraud and breach of public trust relating to the Belarusan Ambassador Affair. He denies all of the allegations against him.

The indictment said that the Yisrael Beytenu chairman failed to report an illegal leak by former Belarusian ambassador Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh regarding an investigation against Liberman for allegedly laundering millions of dollars.

Liberman also helped Ben- Aryeh receive a promotion to a new ambassadorship as subsequent “payment” for the leak, the indictment alleged.

Ex-deputy foreign minister and former Liberman ally Danny Ayalon is expected to be one of the star witnesses, among several top Foreign Ministry and other officials, against Liberman.

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