(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In its second petition to the High Court of Justice to disqualify Shas party leader Arye Deri from his post as economy minister because of his past bribery conviction, an NGO on Tuesday asked in exasperation how it could be that sexual criminals cannot return as ministers, but those taking bribes can.
Movement for Quality Government in Israel founder Eliad Shraga told the High Court that allowing Deri to be a minister sends the message that there’s “no problem, you’re in the gang,” to someone who took bribes, and added that no one would consider letting someone who committed a sexual crime return as a minister, and the same should be done with someone convicted of taking bribes.
Despite Shraga’s appeal to the court, in which he noted that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein himself called the appointment problematic, Justices Esther Hayut, Hanan Melcer and Uzi Vogelman appeared unmoved. The court has not yet come to a verdict.
The justices repeatedly said they agreed with Shraga on a moral plane, but implied he was failing to make clear legal arguments that Deri had to be sacked.
The state and Deri’s lawyer alternately emphasized that Deri was out of politics for his prison term and the seven years afterwards dictated by the law, that he was then accepted by the public and the Knesset, and that around 30 years had passed since he committed the bribery crimes for which he was convicted.
The NGO’s written petition had leaned heavily on the portions of Weinstein’s statements that described the difficulties with appointing Deri.
For example, in order to limit some of the potential appearance of impropriety, Weinstein suggested that Deri give up certain authorities he would normally possess.
He said that Deri should give up authority over involvement in the appointment of labor court judges, so that someone with his past would not have any influence over the courts.
The NGO emphasized Weinstein’s statement that Deri’s crimes had been severe and intimately connected to his power as a public servant, offenses that he said could be viewed as much worse than having violated a law as a private individual.
The Shas founder quit politics when he was convicted of bribery and served two years in prison. While he was released from prison in 2002, he was not reinstated as leader of the Shas Party until 2012.
The law prohibits anyone convicted of crimes with moral turpitude like Deri’s from returning to public office for at least seven years.
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