Lieberman's Trial to Start Sunday
The trial of Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman will begin on Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court.
Lieberman is suspected of fraud and breach of trust after having suggested in December 2009 that the government name Ambassador Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, the former ambassador to Belarus, to a post in another country. This was done despite the fact that -- according to the evidence presented -- Lieberman knew that the ambassador had done wrong in passing along secret information, including details of a police inquiry against Lieberman.
After Lieberman stepped down, the Justice Ministry announced the investigation was re-opened following media reports that "Lieberman may have been involved in the appointment of the ambassador at a level exceeding that which was attributed to him by the facts in the indictment."
Testimony given by Lieberman’s former Deputy Minister, Danny Ayalon, has indicated that Lieberman was not only aware of the expected appointment but also worked and pushed for the appointment to be approved at the Appointments Committee of the Foreign Ministry.
Lieberman's lawyers have asked the court to expedite the procedure to avoid hurting him politically. Lieberman has hinted that if he is convicted of corruption charges, he will not stay in politics, but added that he is confident that he will beat the charges brought against him.
Meanwhile on Saturday, MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to publicly state that he will not save the position of Foreign Minister for Lieberman until the end of his trial, as has been indicated he plans to do.
Michaeli reasoned her request so that employees of the Foreign Ministry will be able to testify during Lieberman’s trial without fear of being dismissed if Lieberman returns to the position.
“Lieberman's statement (that the Foreign Ministry will be saved for him -ed.), which was not denied by you, creates a situation in which civil servants employed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be summoned to the witness stand knowing that the person who will be hurt by their testimony is likely to determine their professional future shortly afterwards. There is serious concern that the legal process will be tainted as a result of this,” Michaeli wrote Netanyahu.
She added, "I'm sure that a person in your position would not give his hand to placing state employees in the shadow of such a threat and to endangering the purity of the legal process. Reserving a government position by the Prime Minister to a person who is accused of fraud and breach of trust constitutes improper public conduct. I ask you to announce now, prior to the presenting of the evidence at trial, that the Foreign Ministry will not be saved for Lieberman as a deposit.”