MK Hanegbi Suspended From Knesset Over Moral Turpitude Conviction

Court adds to perjury conviction; Hanegbi will have to to leave his Knesset seat within the next few days and will likely be replaced by journalist Nino Abesadze.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that MK Tzachi Hanegbi's perjury conviction consists of moral turpitude and sentenced him to pay a NIS 10,000 fine. The ruling bars Hanegbi from continuing to serve in the current Knesset, yet will enable him to run for the next Knesset.

Tzachi Hanegbi MK outside a Jerusalem court after his acquittal of corruption charges, July 13, 2010
Tomer Appelbaum

Hanegbi was convicted of delivering false statements in July during his trial on political appointments while environment minister, but cleared of several other charges at the same time.

Hanegbi - a Kadima and former Likud lawmaker who has held six ministerial portfolios in over two decades in government - avoided conviction on cronyism-related charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

The State Comptroller's Office had asked the court to attach a turpitude ruling to the sentence and to levy both a suspended prison term and a fine.

Hanegbi's attorney Jacob Weinroth asked the court to clear his client of turpitude and sentence him to a fine and community service.

His Knesset seat is likely to be filled by journalist Nino Abesadze. Abesadze had been slated to take the place of Eli Aflalo, who was expected to leave parliament to take a senior position at the Jewish National Fund, but his appointment became stalled by bureaucratic red tape.

Ten days ago, Hanegbi's lawyers asked prosecutors to outline the implications of the sentence they intend to levy against the ex-minister. Attorneys asked for specific information regarding the legislator's eligibility to serve as minister for the next seven years, should a suspended sentence be given.

Hanegbi's legal team told the court that finding the lawmaker guilty of turpitude and handing him a suspended sentence is tantamount to barring him from serving as minister for seven years.