Ben Arieh indicted for alleged leak to Liberman

Former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, allegedly informed then-MK Liberman of confidential criminal probe.

Justice gavel court law book judge 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Justice gavel court law book judge 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The State Attorney’s Office for Economic Affairs filed an indictment in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, charging a former ambassador with disclosure in breach of duty and obstruction of justice.
Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Belarus between 2004-2009, is alleged to have disclosed confidential information to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in 2008 regarding a request by Israeli police to the Belarusian authorities for assistance in a criminal investigation into Liberman, who at the time was an MK.
The State Attorney’s Office said that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein approved the indictment, which was filed after Ben-Aryeh testified in a hearing in the State Attorney’s Office. The indictment was filed alongside a notice of a plea bargain agreement reached by the parties, in which Ben-Aryeh admitted wrongdoing.
According to the indictment, Ben- Aryeh was responsible for handling requests regarding the transfer of legal assistance between Israeli and Belarusian law enforcement authorities.
The indictment charges that in February 2008, Ben-Aryeh received a request that Israeli police had sent to its embassy in Belarus for assistance relating to the criminal investigation into Liberman, who at the time served as an MK.
The police asked that the request be referred to the Belarusian judicial authorities, the indictment said.
According to the indictment, Liberman visited Belarus in October 2008, and met with Ben-Aryeh. During that meeting, Ben-Aryeh allegedly told Liberman about the request for legal assistance, and gave him various details about it, including in writing.
The indictment said Ben-Aryeh exploited the trust placed in him as an ambassador, and gave information to Liberman without lawful authority.
Liberman, the indictment continued, was not authorized to receive that information, especially in the light of his status as the suspect about which the Israeli authorities had filed a case.
The indictment also noted that Ben- Aryeh notified Liberman about the Israeli police’s application, knowing it was confidential, and that his actions had been intended to obstruct the criminal investigation into Liberman.
According to that plea bargain, Ben- Aryeh agreed to plead guilty to charges of disclosure in breach of duty and obstruction of justice. The parties agreed to ask for a sentence of four to six months of community service and a probationary sentence to be determined by the court.
Meanwhile, the attorney-general announced late Monday night that a decision in the probe into the foreign minister is expected “within weeks.”
Weinstein informed Liberman in April last year that he planned to indict him – pending a hearing – on charges of fraud, breach of trust, fraudulent receipt, money laundering and witness harassment.
Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private business people, through straw companies, between the years 2001 and 2008, while he was a member of Knesset and a cabinet minister.
In a written response to a query by the Movement for Quality Government, Weinstein said that following hearings in January and February, his office expected to receive written arguments on a number of issues from Liberman’s defense team.
After those written arguments are received, Weinstein said his office would make a decision within several weeks.
If Liberman is indicted, he will be forced to resign as a minister. However, if he reaches a plea bargain with the state, he may be able to resign for a single term, potentially making him eligible to serve as a minister in the future.
Regarding reports of an early election, Weinstein referred to guidelines set down in Directive 1.1913 of the attorney- general’s office on the issue of prosecutions prior to elections, and said that Liberman’s case will be conducted as per usual.
Later on Tuesday, civil rights NGO the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel called on the attorney-general to clarify the procedures for filing indictments against elected officials before a general election.
In a letter to Weinstein, Legal Forum director attorney Nachi Eyal said that given Liberman’s case has been pending for years, any decision to indict him before an election would be “very odd timing.”
“If this were a one-off event, we would not have turned to you,” Eyal wrote, adding that two weeks before the previous elections, Liberman’s associates were questioned regarding the suspicions against him.
“This situation apparently indicates that there is an increased motivation to promote procedures and make crucial decisions in matters relating to politicians in general and to Minister Liberman in particular, just before the election,” Eyal said.