Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's
trial began Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court.
The former minister faces fraud and breach of trust charges over his alleged involvement in the promotion of former Israeli Ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben Aryeh
within the Diplomatic Corps – to the post of ambassador to Latvia.
The State alleges that Lieberman's interference in the appointment constituted abuse of authority.
Lieberman entered a plea of "Not guilty on all counts."
The defense argued that "The defendant did not exceed his authority in any way, nor did he commit any criminal offense."
On orders from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the indictment was revised
to exclude criminal charges that were part of the original investigation against Lieberman, including counts of alleged fraud, money laundering and fraudulently obtaining benefits.
Weinstein ruled that the criminal charges lacked evidentiary merit and will fail to stand up to the court's scrutiny. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador disagreed at the time, saying he believed that the State had a solid criminal case
against the foreign minister.
The State did, however, announce that it will vigorously pursue a moral turpitude conviction, which – if obtained – will bar Lieberman from political and public life for seven years.
Lieberman stepped down as foreign minister once the state filed the indictment against him. He professed his innocence, saying he hopes for a speedy trial.
Convinced he will be found not guilty, Lieberman has repeatedly said that once his name is cleared he will resume his position as Israel's foreign minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has agreed to hold the Foreign Affairs Portfolio in trust once the new government is formed, pending the results of the legal proceedings.
Lieberman may also choose one of Yisrael Beiteinu's
Knesset members to serve as his locum tenens until such time as the trial is resolved.
The court will hear Lieberman's case with an extended, three-judge panel. Deputy District Court President Judge Hagit Mack-Kalmanovith will preside over the trial, with the honorable Yitzhak Shimoni and Eitan Kornhawser on the bench as well.
Prosecutor Attorney Michael Sibal-Darel, deputy head of the State Prosecutor's Office's Financial Crime Division, will be representing the State.
The defense team will be comprised of attorneys Yaakov Weinroth, Giora Aderet, Yaron Kosteliz, Nati Simhoni and Oded Gazit.
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