aryeh deri 224.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After former Shas leader Arye Deri announced last week that he was planning to come back into the political fold now that seven years since the end of his prison term had passed, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz deflated these hopes Sunday, saying that period should be calculated according to his actual sentence and not according to the time he effectively served.
Deri was convicted in March 1999 and started serving his three-year sentence in September 2000. He served less than two years due to good behavior and was released July 15, 2002.
Close associates of the former Shas leader said the seven years barring him from politics were up, counting from the day Deri was released from prison.
However, Mazuz wrote that "there is room to support an interpretation of the law according to which the [seven-year period of banishment from political activity] should be counted from the end of the imprisonment period."
Still, he added, "the wording of the law is not unequivocal."
Mazuz said the issue should be reevaluated once Deri decided to present his candidacy for any public role.
"In any case, for the time being, we are not aware of any nomination or appointment that necessitates a discussion of this issue, but it is self-evident that when the need arises, the issue will be discussed," he said.
Deri has hinted to confidants that he will soon form a new socioeconomic movement that will work to bridge the gaps between rich and poor and among Jews of all levels of religious observance. He is set to announce the movement's formation after the three-week mourning period that ends with Tisha Be'av on July 30, though the announcement make come only after the fall holidays, which end October 10.
The movement will not be presented as political, at least not at first, to avoid offending Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
When Deri was removed from the party leadership a decade ago, the rabbi pledged he would return to the post, but Yosef is said to be pleased with current Shas chairman Eli Yishai.
However, Deri has deliberately avoided making any concrete statements as to his plans, and on the day that he and his associates claim the seven-year period ended, he did not make any dramatic statements.
In a recent meeting with a group of fervent supporters, Deri pleaded for patience. He said he was definitely returning to politics and that he had a plan, but would not announce it until the time was ripe.
If the attorney-general's more conservative interpretation of the law is adopted, Deri will only be allowed to return to political life in a year.
Gil Hoffman and Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.