Avigdor Liberman fraud trial set for next month

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, will go on trial next month for fraud and breach of trust.

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The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled Sunday that the trial will begin on February 17, and will be held before a three-judge panel.

The decision to hold the case before an extended judicial panel, instead of the more usual one judge, was made due to the public nature of the case, according to reports. 

Liberman resigned at the end of December as foreign minister shortly before his indictment on the charges of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him. The charges came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year probe of Liberman in other cases.

Liberman, who is No. 2 on the combined Knesset list of his party and Likud behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said earlier this month in an Army Radio interview that he would resign from politics if he is convicted.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is reportedly the state’s key witness in the Ben Aryeh case, and reportedly will testify against Liberman during the trial. Shortly before the indictment was formally issued, Liberman announced that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the recent national elections. Ayalon stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Liberman stepping down.
 

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