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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Kadima chair and Opposition leader Tzipi Livni lashed out at the Shas Party and its chairman Eli Yishai on Wednesday, saying he was promoting corruption after Yishai requested that the president pardon convicted former minister Shlomo Benizri.
Livni said that any political interference in such legal matters was inappropriate.
"Eli Yishai's statements are outrageous. Shas as a party does not represent social values. Its support of child welfare stipends only widen the gaps in society," said Livni.
In a statement released Wednesday, Livni accused Shas of attempting to exploit the sense of discrimination some in the Sephardi sector feel.
"I believe that Israelis want to see this country free of corruption," Livni said. "Instead, Eli Yishai attempts to enlist them to further corruption and to further a war on the Supreme Court."
Benizri had been sentenced to four years in prison for accepting a bribe, fraud, breach of faith and obstruction of justice. Earlier this week, Yishai sent President Shimon Peres a letter asking him to pardon his former colleague.
In the letter Yishai noted Benizri's public record, calling him "an exceptional and beloved public figure who has helped many."
He hinted that Benizri may have been discriminated against because of his ethnicity: "I need not remind you of the feelings of discrimination, persecution and of socioeconomic suffering" Sephardim feel, Yishai wrote.
"As a public figure, as a Mizrahi and as the deputy prime minister, I feel that there is no worthier pardon request," Yishai wrote.
Yishai later defended the letter, saying on Tuesday that "it was a necessary move due to the public sentiment on the issue."
Meanwhile a Justice Ministry official asked Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz Wednesday to consider whether Benizri's brother was in contempt of court in light of statements he had made.
David Benizri told a haredi radio station on Tuesday that the judge in his brother's trial, Justice Edmond Levi, was "evil and uncouth."
Benizri hinted that his brother's tough sentence could be related to his ethnicity, and claimed that the fact that Levi is both Mizrahi and Orthodox was a deliberate ploy to blind the public to the injustice of the verdict.
Courts Administration Director-General Moshe Gal sent a letter to the attorney-general arguing that Benizri's statements were contemptuous and his tone "coarse and brutal."
The "attempt to delegitimize the justice system and its judges and to attribute ulterior motives to a judge and slander him due to a ruling he gave, should be viewed with severity," Gal wrote.