A key witness in Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman's
trial denied he received any tips from the former foreign minister on the appointment of Ze'ev Ben Aryeh as Israeli
ambassador to Latvia.
Former Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal, who was Lieberman's subordinate at the time of Ben Aryeh's appointment, said Lieberman had never apprised him of his preference regarding candidates for ambassadorial posts.
Lieberman is being accused of pushing Ben Aryeh's
appointment to the post of ambassador in Latvia in 2004 without reporting the information he received from him during the nomination process. Ben Aryeh was convicted of unauthorized disclosure of information and obstruction of justice as part of a plea bargain for tipping off Lieberman about details pertaining to an investigation into his financial dealings.
Lieberman, who entered a plea of "Not guilty on all counts," has consistently denied he discussed the issue with Ben Aryeh.
Testifying on Tuesday are former appointments committee members who, together with Gal, appointed Ben Aryeh as ambassador – Yossi Gal, Israeli ambassador to France and Shimon Roded, ambassador to Thailand.
Gal, who was responsible for all ministry appointments in his role as the minister's director-general, said he was handling hundreds of appointments per year. He said that he does not recall talks regarding Ben Aryeh prior to the appointment, saying his acquaintance with him, and knowledge of his work and abilities were very limited when he began studying his file prior to the session of the committee where the appointment was decided upon.
It was put to Gal in the cross examination that his testimony clashes with the account of the facts given by former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, the main witness for the prosecution, who said Lieberman pushed Ben Aryeh to the ambassadorial job claiming he was the most qualified for it. Gal said he holds by his testimony.
The official added that it was Lieberman who had appointed him to his former post. He further added the two shared a productive professional relationship that has never gone beyond that. He conceded the former FM had, at times, voiced his opinion on individuals in the ministry, but it never represented any kind of recommendation toward any decision.
Investigations into Lieberman, 54, were first opened in 2001 and spanned nine countries. The more serious allegations included money-laundering and bribery, but the attorney general said there was no chance of a conviction on those.
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