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      Judge Silences Prime Minister

      The Central Elections Committee will convene tomorrow night in the wake of the political storm caused by the abruptly cut-off press conference given by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last night. Sharon was in the midst of explaining, in a nationally televised speech, his position regarding the accusations that had been made against him over the preceding few days.



      The Likud is furious
      First Publish: 1/10/2003, 2:06 PM

      The Central Elections Committee will convene tomorrow night in the wake of the political storm caused by the abruptly cut-off press conference given by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last night. Sharon was in the midst of explaining, in a nationally televised speech, his position regarding the accusations that had been made against him over the preceding few days. As of yesterday, public support was down by some 25%, compared to a month ago, following several weeks of press reports of Likud party corruption. After about 14 minutes, however, the broadcasts were stopped, by order of Elections Committee Chairman Judge Michael Cheshin, who said that Sharon's speech included illegal electioneering.

      The Likud is furious at the decision, with at least one official accusing Judge Cheshin of "shutting the Prime Minister's mouth." Likud campaign headquarters announced that the attacks on Sharon had been ongoing for a number of days, "yet when he wants to respond to the unrestrained attacks, he is prevented from doing so." A Likud strategist said that the broadcasting networks had "arranged to interview Labor Party officials after the speech, thus maintaining balance - but Cheshin's hasty and reckless order disrupted the balance."

      The Labor Party demands not only that last night's appearance be deducted from the time allotted to the Likud for electioneering, but also that Sharon be indicted on charges of violating the campaign propaganda laws. The law forbids media electioneering in the weeks prior to the election, and carries a punishment of imprisonment.

      Many Labor spokesmen mocked Sharon's claim that he "did not know" the source of the money he used to pay back the campaign contributions.

      Despite the outcry, some Likud sources - including, reportedly, Sharon himself - said they were satisfied that his message had gotten across. It was noted that the order to end the broadcasts was implemented only after Sharon had inserted into his speech several sharp comments against the Labor Party and its head, Amram Mitzna.