Six Years On, Decision on Lieberman Indictment Delayed Again

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

A decision on whether to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is no longer expected in the near future, because Lieberman's lawyers have succeeded in instilling doubts as to the prosecution's chances of securing a conviction.

The attorney general's office had hoped to make a final decision by the end of August or early September.

However, because Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and his team now have doubts as to their ability to convict Lieberman on the central charges in the case, they have instead decided to conduct a thorough review of the evidence to see whether the problems can be overcome.

The final decision on an indictment was subject to a hearing with Lieberman's lawyers, who apparently succeeded in casting doubts on the existing evidence during several sessions.

In April 2011, Weinstein announced that he had tentatively decided to indict Lieberman on charges of fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud, money laundering and witness tampering.

Authorities say private businessmen transferred millions of dollars to companies under Lieberman's control between 2001 and 2008. Lieberman was a private citizen for part of that time, but a Knesset member and minister for the rest.

Senior Justice Ministry officials involved in the case have been complaining for months about Weinstein's foot-dragging in making a decision, arguing that the evidentiary problems have already been exhaustively discussed.

Last month, after former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted in court of most of the charges against him, Deputy Attorney General Ran Nizri warned that the Lieberman case would have to be reconsidered in light of that verdict.

One jurist suggested that the decision is proving so difficult for Weinstein partly because he was appointed by the current government. Thus if he closes the case, he'll be accused of having been appointed for that very purpose.

Yet indicting a senior minister, thereby forcing him to resign, only to have him cleared in court, would also be problematic.

The Justice Ministry said discussions on the case are continuing, and "great efforts are being made to reach a decision as soon as possible."

Avigdor Lieberman.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum