Abu-hatzeira Pleads Not Guilty at the Opening of His Trial

Aharon Abu-Hatzeira, the Minister of Absorption and Welfare, pleaded not guilty in Tel Aviv district court yesterday, at the opening of his trial for alleged embezzlement and fraud. The same plea was entered by his co-defendant and former aide, Moshe Gabay. The trial is expected to last until the end of the year during which time the prosecution intends to call about 61 witnesses.

State Attorney Gavriel Bach said at the opening session that he would prove that Abu-Hatzeira had misappropriated public funds amounting to millions of Pounds between the years 1973-1977 when he served as Mayor of Ramle. He allegedly took the money from a charitable fund which had received it from the Interior Ministry to establish scholarships for yeshiva and other students among Israel’s Sephardic community. Abu-Hatzeira was administrator of the fund set up in the name of his late father who had been Chief Rabbi of Morocco.

The Welfare Minister, who heads the Tami faction, a coalition partner in Premier Menachem Begin’s Likudled government, took a leave of absence from his Cabinet duties yesterday after trying in vain to have the trial postponed. Abu-Hatzeira was acquitted of charges of bribe-taking in a trial held earlier this year. Those charges stemmed from alleged wrong-doings when he served as Religious Affairs Minister in the first Begin government. At that time he was a member of the National Religious Party. He is currently charged on 10 counts of fraud, betrayal of trust and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Reminder: There will be no Bulletin dated Nov. 26 due to Thanksgiving, a postal holiday.

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