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The trial of MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud) took an unusual turn Tuesday when the Knesset Member denied removing evidence from the Knesset storage room, only to return four small ballot boxes, taken from that room, several hours later.
During a morning interview with Army Radio, Hazan was asked repeatedly whether he had ever visited the storage room or removed equipment from it.
"I'm telling you as clearly as possible that I didn't take it, I wasn't there," Hazan said during the interview.
Nearly an hour after making that statement, a video from a hidden camera surfaced that caught Hazan entering a room where old election equipment was held and leaving with the equipment. Upon hearing of the video, Hazan appeared in the office of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and placed the boxes on his desk.
Hazan and Michael Gorolovsky (Likud) have been accused of voting in the place of absent Likud party MKs in early 2003.
Gorolovsky confessed, and the Knesset distanced him from Knesset votes and debates for six months. His Knesset immunity, however, was never removed and he has not been indicted.
Hazan, however, agreed at the time to have his Knesset immunity removed, and his trial for conspiracy to commit a crime is currently underway.
The "double vote" incident took place on May 28, 2003, during the second and third readings of a bill on the emergency economic plan.
Hazan allegedly used his own switchboard to vote against the bill, and then leaned forward and voted against the bill again using the switchboard of MK Inbal Gavrieli, who was not present in the plenum.
Hazan has argued that the double voting was the result of faulty voting equipment. That equipment was replaced in 2003. The four ballot boxes that the video allegedly shows Hazan removing were those his proximity during the "double vote." After returning the equipment, Hazan changed his statement, saying that he had been permitted to enter the storeroom by the Knesset Speaker.
"On November 9, I received permission to enter the storeroom accompanied by a Knesset official. I was told I could examine the voting panels, but that I needed a special permit to inspect other parts," Hazan explained.
"Claims that I obstructed procedures are untrue. This was all a misunderstanding." A Knesset spokesman confirmed that Hazan was granted permission to inspect the voting panels, but only with the escort of Knesset guard. The spokesman added that he apparently removed the panels after his escort left the storeroom.
The incident was discussed by MKs of various parties Tuesday, who called it a symbol of the mounting corruption in the Likud party.
"The Likud is split between Sharon and the rebels, but it turns out that corruption unites them all," said MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yahad).
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