Former Shas head Aryeh Deri cannot run for mayor of Jerusalem this year, the Jerusalem District Court ruled Thursday. Deri was barred from the race under a law mandating a seven-year wait before entering politics following a prison sentence. Deri was sentenced to prison in 1999 for bribery, and completed his sentence six years ago.
Deri's attorneys argued that at the time of his sentencing, the post-prison wait was only six years, meaning Deri would be eligible to enter politics in 2008. The wait was extended to seven years after Deri was sentenced, and cannot be applied retroactively, they said.
State attorney Inat Golomb argued that the waiting period could be extended retroactively because the wait did not constitute a punishment. Judge Moshe Sobel accepted the state's argument, and said the waiting period was meant to “maintain a reasonable period of time between the punishment and the elections.”
On Thursday morning, Deri told Army Radio that he accepted the court's authority. “Whatever the court decides is legitimate,” he said. However, following the sentencing, he said he would study the ruling and consult with rabbis before making a final decision on whether or not to appeal the ruling.
Current Shas head Eli Yishai encouraged Deri to appeal, and said Shas would support him. The court's ruling “is a blow to individual freedom,” Yishai said. “Your struggle is our struggle,” he told Deri.
Jerusalem mayoral candidate Nir Barkat's aides said the ruling did not interest Barkat. “It's a legal matter, and we trust the court's ruling,” they said. Barkat “is busy saving the city of Jerusalem,” they said, and so was not involved in the issue. Mayoral candidate Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism (UTJ) refused to respond to the ruling.