Court convicts former ambassador to Belarus

Ze'ev Ben-Aryeh admitted to leaking confidential information on the ongoing criminal investigation into FM Liberman.

Justice gavel court law book judge 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Justice gavel court law book judge 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday convicted Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, of disclosure in breach of duty and obstruction of justice, three weeks after his lawyers agreed a plea bargain with the state.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, Ben-Aryeh agreed to admit the charges in return for the prosecution requesting a sentence of four to six months of community service and a probationary sentence, which will be determined by the court.
In Monday’s hearing, judge Hagit Kalmanovith accepted the plea bargain and convicted Ben-Aryeh. The former diplomat will be sentenced at a later date, and the court is expected to hear sentencing arguments in October.
The State Attorney’s Office for Economic Affairs filed the indictment against Ben- Aryeh at the beginning of May, after receiving approval from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
Weinstein gave his agreement to the indictment after Ben Aryeh testified in a hearing in the State Attorney’s Office.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is also under investigation, and Weinstein informed him in April last year that the state 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. Liberman denies all charges.
According to the indictment filed against Ben-Aryeh, in 2008, at the time of the leak, the then-ambassador had been responsible for handling requests regarding the transfer of legal assistance between Israeli and Belarusian law enforcement authorities.
The indictment said 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.
Police representatives asked Ben-Aryeh to refer the request to the Belarusian judicial authorities.
Liberman visited Belarus in October 2008, and met with Ben-Aryeh. During that meeting, Ben-Aryeh 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 light of his status as the suspect about which the Israeli authorities had filed a case.
The suspicions about Ben- Aryeh’s leaking information to Liberman arose in 2010, just before the former diplomat was set to take up the post of Israeli ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania.
Instead, Ben-Aryeh took extended leave.