Liberman again questioned in ambassador affair

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was questioned again regarding allegations that he advanced the position of Israel’s former envoy to Belarus in exchange for information on an investigation against him.

Liberman was questioned under caution late on Tuesday night, hours after launching his party’s campaign for the Jan. 22 election.

Liberman resigned last week as foreign minister, although he remains a member of the Knesset and the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party.

His resignation came days after Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Liberman, dismissing most of the charges. But Weinstein said he would file an indictment of Liberman for fraud and breach of trust for advancing former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben Aryeh’s position in the Foreign Ministry allegedly in exchange for information about an investigation against Liberman being conducted in Belarus. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Liberman in 2008.

The further questioning could result in prosecutors adding a charge of moral turpitude to the indictment. If found guilty of moral turpitude, Liberman could not hold public office for at least seven years. 

New testimony by several members of the Foreign Ministry appointments panel which approved Ben Aryeh’s appointment as Israel’s ambassador to Latvia has strengthened the case against Liberman, Israeli media have reported. One member of the panel who recently was deposed is Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who Liberman recently announced would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list. 

The further questioning and hearings mean that it is unlikely that the case will go to trial before a new government is formed after the Jan. 22 elections. Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party is running on a joint candidates’ list with the ruling Likud Party.

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