Tzachi Hanegbi MK outside a Jerusalem court after his acquittal of corruption charges, July 13, 2010
Tzachi Hanegbi MK outside a Jerusalem court after his acquittal of corruption charges, July 13, 2010 Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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An array of public figures including a former president, the Knesset speaker and an award-winning author on Sunday urged judges not end the political career of Tzachi Hanegbi, an ex-minister convicted of perjury.

Hanegbi, a Knesset member for the opposition Kadima party and former minister, was in July acquitted of charges of nepotism during his time in office. But despite ruling him not guilty of the major charges against him, the court convicted Hanegbi of giving false testimony during the trial.

On Sunday, his supporters wrote to the court, asking judges not to let what they say is a relatively minor offense destroy the ambitions of Hanagebi, who is widely seen as a moderating force in Israel's devise politics.

"Hanegbi holds the capability to help prevent a split in the nation and it is my hope that the transgression for which he has been convicted will not prevent him from continuing in his important political activities," wrote Yitzhak Navon, who served as Israel's fourth president.

Gabriella Shalev, who in August completed a term as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, wrote: "There is no doubt in my heart that Tzachi has learned his lesson and acknowledged past mistakes."

As part of the trial process, Israeli courts invite defendants to submit testimony from character witnesses before sentencing.

Other witnesses included Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, his predecessor Dalia Itzik, author Yoram Kaniuk and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

Hanegbi's trial, which involved more than 100 witnesses and produced a transcript that ran to 15,000 pages, was used by lawyers as a flagship event in a campaign against political corruption.

Although in opposition, Hanegbi is a seen as close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is believed to be one of the strongest proponents of a move to take Kadima, led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, into the government coalition.