After years of investigation and build-up, testimony in the trial of
foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on charges of fraud and breach of public trust
begins on Thursday.
Liberman pleaded not guilty and denied the charges
against him on February 17.
The prosecution said
it planned to call two
witnesses on Thursday – former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh
Foreign Ministry inspector Victor Harel, in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s
Ben-Aryeh may be the key witness in the
case, as he cut a plea
bargain deal with the state in the underlying case against him that led
spin-off case against Liberman.
One of the main
issues in dispute is what
Liberman did with – and what was his intent in accepting – classified
investigative information that Ben-Aryeh illegally provided to Liberman.
the state was investigating Liberman for a separate case involving money
laundering in 2008, it gave Ben-Aryeh, then the ambassador to Belarus, a
classified request for information to pass on to the Belarusian
Ben-Aryeh then gave a copy of the
classified documents to
Liberman. Ben-Aryeh was on track to being appointed as ambassador to Latvia,
before being forced to resign from the Foreign Ministry
when the affair became public.
testimony about Liberman’s
reaction to – and behavior after – receiving the illegal information,
crucial to the case.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
The Justice Ministry
recently confirmed that
transcripts of the police interrogation of Liberman were filed with the
with reports surfacing of Liberman characterizing Ben-Aryeh as
willing to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.
reports, Liberman went so far as to say that if he himself questioned
for 10 straight hours, he could get him to “admit that he crucified
The second expected witness, Harel, has
Liberman as having inappropriately pushed for promotions for Ben-Aryeh
blasted the idea that the former Belarusian ambassador was worthy of any
promotions, stating that he rated him negatively in his
Wednesday night, Channel 10 News reported that Liberman’s version of
surrounding Ben-Aryeh’s promotions was directly contradicted by former
foreign minister and ex-Yisrael Beytenu MK Danny Ayalon.
said that Liberman had consulted with him and pushed for Ben-Aryeh’s
Liberman, the report noted, told police “it never happened, that’s his
and this is mine.”
Liberman continued to rebut
Ayalon’s version of
events, saying people could also say “I killed [Zionist leader Haim]
[in 1933]. I don’t have to explain what others say,” according to the
Lawyers for Liberman said they had filed a
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein asking him to investigate how leaks of
Liberman’s testimony had found their way into the media, and to
The trial is expected to be expedited,
with hearings in close
succession from Thursday through the end of June. Additional evidence
closing statements are due to be submitted in July
If Liberman is
convicted and his actions are found to constitute moral turpitude, he
to resign from the Knesset and leave politics for a minimum of seven
sidelining and possibly ending the political career of a man who, at
been not much more than a heartbeat away from the post of prime
If he is acquitted, he has publicly
said that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu will immediately return him to head the Foreign
Netanyahu has held onto the post himself since his new government was
appearing to confirm Liberman’s statements.
Magistrate’s Court Deputy President Hagit Kalmanovith convicted
charges of obstruction of justice and breach of public trust, and
to only four months of community service.
Liberman was indicted on
December 27 for fraud and breach of public trust. The updated indictment
first draft had been publicized two weeks before) alleged that he failed
report that Ben-Aryeh had illegally shown him the secret material, and
subsequently put Ben-Aryeh on track to being named ambassador to Latvia as a
After the initial draft indictment was
announced on December
13, Liberman resigned as foreign minister and waived his parliamentary
The draft indicated that Liberman
discussed the possible
ambassadorship with Ben-Aryeh when the latter asked him for advice, and
Ben-Aryeh he would support his candidacy.
the indictment said that
Liberman summoned Ayalon and told him they should appoint Ben-Aryeh to
Latvian post. Ayalon, in his capacity as deputy foreign minister, served
chairman of the ministry’s seven-person “higher appointments” committee
responsible for filling vacancies at embassies and consulates
According to the indictment, Liberman
told Ayalon that Ben- Aryeh
was the most qualified candidate for the job. Ayalon, who barely knew
then acted, based on Liberman’s encouragement and documents before the
committee, to try to ensure his appointment, the indictment said. The
did not specify what actions Ayalon took in that regard, although the
probably be fleshed out by witnesses in court.
Ayalon is expected to be
one of the star witnesses against Liberman, including Ben-Aryeh and
Foreign Ministry and other officials. Ayalon publicly went on the
against his former boss over the weekend, saying the latter should not
the Foreign Ministry even if he is exonerated.
“Liberman put pressure [on
the selection committee] to appoint certain people to the Foreign
I succeeded in blocking, because I convinced him that they were not
Ayalon has said.
But he has also added that there
had been nothing
improper about the Ben-Aryeh appointment itself, a statement which, if
at the trial, would help Liberman’s legal case much more than any
attacks Ayalon has made on him.
Ayalon as dishonest and vengeful after Liberman essentially tossed him
Yisrael Beytenu ahead of January’s national election, noting that Ayalon
criticize Liberman as long as he had a highlevel government
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Justice Ministry
confirmed that it was
investigating two former senior advisers to Liberman from his time as
minister for possible illegalities relating to overseas flights and the
of Liberman’s bureau.
There is no direct
connection between the case, in
which Liberman is not a suspect, and the fraud case against Liberman
restarts on Thursday. However, the prosecution passed on its evidence in
case against Liberman’s aides to Liberman’s lawyers to avoid any claim
that the prosecution withheld evidence from them that could aid in their
One overlap between the cases
is that Ayalon will
testify against Liberman and has provided evidence in the case against
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>