Beit Shemesh: Mayor affiliates questioned regarding voting fraud

After fraud suspicions emerge in Beit Shemesh local elections, police question number of haredi mayor's associates for role in voting irregularities in highly contested vote, heightening tensions between seculars, ultra-Orthodox

It was cleared for publication Monday that the police have begun questioning a number of men affiliated with Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul for their role in the suspected election fraud during the city's local elections.


The mayoral elections in Beit Shemesh have garnered a large amount of media attention because of the close race between the incumbent haredi Mayor Abutbul and the secular/religious-Zionist representative, Eli Cohen. Abutbul won the election by less than 1,000 votes in what has been a hotly contested result.


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Suspicions of fraud occurred on the day of the elections, when a police raid on two Beit Shemesh apartments produced hundreds of IDs of Israeli residents who are staying abroad, which police suspect were used to vote.


התעודות המזויפות שנתפסו ביום הבחירות (צילום: משטרת מחוז ירושלים)

ID cards found (Photo: Jerusalem District Police)


Some 1,000 Beit Shemesh residents protested in the city last Tuesday, for the second time in a week, demanding that suspicions of fraud in the municipal election last Tuesday be probed.


Protest in Beit Shemesh (Photo: Shelly Bernstein) (Photo: Shelly Bernstein)
Protest in Beit Shemesh (Photo: Shelly Bernstein)

The investigation into the subject, which thus far was handled by the Jerusalem District Police, was transferred to Lahav 433, crime-fighting umbrella organization within the Israeli Police. The unit is tasked with investigating national crimes and corruption.


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MK Moshe Mizrahi (Labor), former Head the Investigative Branch in the Israeli Police, spoke at the protest, saying, "This is not how elections are supposed to look. It's a gunshot fire against democracy, and you cannot buy victory. This case is pivotal. We can't leave it open."


Labor MK Itzik Shmuli added, "We will win and there will be reelection held in Beit Shemesh. Keep fighting; we are with you."


Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said: "This protest is not against haredim, but for the democratic process and the importance of fair elections – which is an important value in Judaism. The future of tens of thousands of resident cannot be decided through fraud, deceit and lies. We will fight for justice, and if need be – reelections in Beit Shemesh."


Cohen supporters, who organized the protest, said that the decision to transfer the investigation to Lahav 433 along with the gag order assigned to the case is indication that suspicions are correct, and may lead to the annulment of the election results. Cohen supporters also said that dozens of residents testified to police about fraud and deficiencies in the voting process.


Abutbul beat Cohen, who represents seculars and moderates in the city, by 956 votes.


Kobi Nachshoni contributed to this report



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פרסום ראשון: 11.04.13, 09:25
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