Hanegbi opposes state request for time to appeal his appeal

MK was forced to resign from the Knesset when his conviction on a perjury charge became final.

By DAN IZENBERG
January 10, 2011 02:45
3 minute read.
Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi

311_Tzahi Hanegbi. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

Tzachi Hanegbi, who was forced to resign from the Knesset when his conviction on a perjury charge became final, told the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday he opposed the state’s request to extend the deadline for appealing his acquittal on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

The decision by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to convict Hanegbi of the one charge and acquit him of the others was made on July 13, 2010. On November 9, the court ruled that the crime of perjury involved moral turpitude. However, it did not sentence him to jail.

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The charges of fraud and breach of trust were based on the allegations that Hanegbi had made dozens of political appointments during his term as minister of the environment.

The perjury charge was based on allegations that Hanegbi had lied to a quasi-judicial tribunal of the Central Election Committee which investigated the political appointments allegations.

In accordance with the law, Hanegbi suspended himself from the Knesset immediately after his conviction.

The suspension was to remain in force while the sides decided whether to appeal the lower court ruling to a higher court. If neither side appealed, the ruling would become final and Hanegbi would have to resign for the duration of the current Knesset.

If the state were to win an appeal against his acquittal on the first charge and if the court handed down a jail sentence on either of the charges, Hanegbi would be barred from running for the Knesset for seven years, effectively ending his political career.

The state made it clear that it intended to at least appeal the court’s two-to-one ruling acquitting Hanegbi on the charges of fraud and breach of trust. It had 45 days to do so from the date of sentencing.

However, during the period, the state prosecutors went on strike and the deadline passed without an appeal from the state. This meant the lower court ruling was final. Hanegbi immediately resigned from the Knesset in accordance with the law.

However, as soon as the prosecutors’ strike ended, the state filed a request with the court to extend the appeal deadline, arguing that special circumstances had prevented it from filing the appeal on time and that the case was of utmost public importance.

The Hanegbi affair marked the first time the state had filed criminal charges against a public figure for making political appointments and it was eager to obtain a precedent-setting court ruling officially outlawing political appointments.

But in his response to the request, Hanegbi charged that he had already resigned from the Knesset on the grounds that the lower court decision had become final. This was an irreversible act and there was no way back now, even if he appealed his conviction and moral turpitude ruling and the court accepted it.

Furthermore, he said, the senior prosecutors, including Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, State Attorney Moshe Lador or any of the district attorneys, who did not strike, could have appealed the lower court ruling or at least filed a request to extend the deadline. They did not do so and the state was appealed retroactively.

In similar cases in the past, his lawyers argued, the court had been much more open to granting more time for appeal to the defense than to the prosecution, since it was the defendant who required more legal protection.


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