Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi (Kasima) can now breathe easy. The former minister was acquitted Tuesday of fraud, breach of trust, and electoral bribery in Jerusalem Magistrates' Court. He was charged on just one count in the indicted filed against him in 2006 – perjury.
MK Hanegbi arrived at the courthouse accompanied by his wife. Before the verdict was read, he did not speak a word besides a stoic "good morning." When the acquittal was read, Hanegbi's supporters broke out in cheers.
"I never felt persecuted or framed, or any of those other things people who are accused of something sometimes feel," Hanegbi said during a special session of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he chairs.
"The State of Israel benefited (from the trial), as this issue (political appointments) has been vague for decades, and ministers have not really known how to act in this regard," the MK added.
He was acquitted of breach of trust by a majority vote of two to one judges sitting on the panel. On all other charges, the judges were in unanimous agreement.
In the indictment, Hanegbi was charged with 72 political appointments within the Environmental Protection Ministry between 2001 and 2003. Each of the spots was filled by a Likud Central Committee member or their associates.
"As you can imagine, I am very very happy, even elated, about the way the court felt about my position in this failed story," the former minister said outside the courtroom.
"The court did well in understanding that during my term as environmental protection minister, I acted with an awareness of a different routine. Therefore, the court rejected by a majority the bid to rule that my moves made on political appointments were criminally flawed. It is a difficult feeling to put into words," he added.
Senior officials in the State Prosecutor's Office said on the eve of the verdict, "The political appointments case is the flagship case in the fight against public corruption and the flagship in the fight against politically motivated appointments."
MK Hanegbi said during his testimony in court that he sees political appointments as "a phenomenon that can definitely be welcomed as long you don't dictate how to act. Before I was minister, this was a routine phenomenon."
The Prosecution rejected Hanegbi's claim that he is a victim in the case.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report