Dery Has 'No Idea' Why Criminal Inquest Launched Against Him

Shas leader and interior minister spoke for first time about criminal probe at party event in Jerusalem.

Shas party chairman and Interior Minister Arye Dery at the Negev Conference in Yeruham on April 12, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

For the first time since the police investigation against him began last month, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Dery publicly declared that he doesn't understand what suspicions are being harbored against him. He appeared Sunday at a gathering in Jerusalem of party activists from all over the country.

The state prosecution opened a criminal investigation of Dery due to suspicions of corruption related to real estate transactions and other activities.

“As of this minute I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Dery told the audience, which included members of his ultra-Orthodox party's Knesset faction and representatives in local government.

The event, which took place in a Jerusalem banquet hall, was held instead of the mass event scheduled for the large Jerusalem Payis Arena during the Intermediate Days of Passover next week. Dery decided to cancel that event out of concern it would turn into a protest against the probe against him.

At Sunday night’s gathering, which was closed to journalists, Dery asked those present to continue working as normal and to intensify their activities after the holiday.

Before the event, Dery’s aides asked the MKs who planned to speak at it to avoid making any heated comments about the inquest. Nevertheless, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay said from the podium, “We hope that with God’s help, He will nullify the counsel and disrupt the designs of all those who have seen us start to rise, and are trying” – at which point he stopped himself.