In Light of New Testimony |

Lieberman's Chances for Speedy Pre-election Trial Dwindle as Prosecution Mulls Harsher Indictment

Ofra Edelman
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Ofra Edelman

The Justice Ministry announced Sunday that prosecutors may add more serious charges to the indictment against Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman.

An indictment was due to be filed against Lieberman last week, but it was unexpectedly postponed so the prosecution could reopen the investigation to take testimony from additional witnesses after Channel 10 reported that some material witnesses were not questioned.  

Lieberman, who resigned earlier this month as foreign minister in connection with the indictment, has been summoned for further questioning.

The charges were to include one count of fraud and one count of breach of trust. Lieberman is accused of attempting to promote Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, the former ambassador to Belarus, to reward Ben Aryeh for giving Lieberman confidential information about the police investigation against him in that country.

Lieberman denies having pushed for Ben Aryeh's appointment as ambassador to Latvia after the Belarus incident.

"From reports, it appears that it is possible that Lieberman was involved in appointing the ambassador to a degree that is greater than what was attributed to him in the facts in the [draft] indictment," the Justice Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

"Following those reports, and despite the fact that there was no need to substantiate an indictment that it was already decided to file, it was decided to investigate the new allegations."   

The announcement came even though Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had previously said that no charges would be brought in connection with broader allegations of money laundering and additional counts of fraud.

The prosecution has said Lieberman should have disclosed his prior contact with Ben Aryeh and suggested that the nomination of Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia was a reward for the assistance the ambassador had sought to provide him in the earlier criminal investigation.

The Justice Ministry said the police questioned the relevant parties and that Lieberman will be given a chance to respond before it decides whether to amend the draft indictment.

Every delay in filing an indictment reduces the chances that the case could be wrapped up by the January 22 election, probably through a plea bargain.

If the new evidence shows that Lieberman pressured the selection committee to appoint Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia, it could result in more serious charges against the former foreign minister, even though Ben Aryeh was not appointed to the post.

Avigdor Lieberman. Still has his eyes on a ministerial portfolio.Credit: Reuters

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