hanegbi at court_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In an unusual move, suspended parliamentarian Tzahi Hanegbi’s lawyers wrote on Wednesday to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, asking him to reconsider his intention to appeal the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court decision to acquit their client of the political appointments charges against him.
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On July 13, in a 2-1 decision, the court acquitted Hanegbi of charges that he had committed fraud and breach of trust, and had tried to influence voters because he had published an ad in a Likud magazine on the eve of the Likud primaries in 2002, boasting that he had appointed dozens of Central Committee members to jobs in the Environment Ministry, which he headed.
In the ad, which he insisted was a journalistic report, he promised to appoint even more members if the Central Committee voted him to a high place on the slate of candidates and he was therefore given a more important ministry in the next government.
The prosecution pressed criminal charges against Hanegbi for making the political appointments.
Presiding Judge Yoel Tsur ruled that Hanegbi was not guilty of any crime and voted to acquit him. Judge Aryeh Romanov ruled that Hanegbi was indeed guilty of the charges but that since no one had ever been held criminally responsible for making political appointments before, it would be unfair to convict him according to the “defense on the basis of justice” argument.
Only Judge Oded Shaham found Hanegbi guilty of the charges and also voted to convict him.
The state was dissatisfied with the ruling. It was bent on establishing a precedent according to which political appointments constitute a criminal offense.
Since Hanegbi was the first MK charged for such an offense, the prosecution wanted to see that he was convicted so that there would be no future ambiguity over the illegality of political appointments.
The prosecution made it clear it would appeal the acquittal to the district court.
Meanwhile, in the same ruling, the court convicted Hanegbi of perjury. On Tuesday, it handed down the sentence, declaring that the crime of perjury involved moral turpitude. As a result, Hanegbi was forced to leave the Knesset, although he may run for parliament again in the next election and also serve as a minister in a postelection government.
In their letter, attorneys Gershon Gontovnik and Oded Gazit told
Weinstein that the conviction and sentencing were “proportional and that
both sides could find something favorable in them.”
They added that even though they had serious arguments to challenge the
lower court’s ruling if they appealed it, “we believe that at this point
and in view of all that was said above, and especially the amount of
time and the price that Hanegbi has paid, it is only right and proper to
put an end to this process… “We hope that despite the reports in the
media having to do with [your intention of] filing an appeal, you will
take to heart what we have written.
This way, we will be able to harness our plows and head for other fields whose time has come.”