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Degel Hatorah Members Arrested on Suspicion of Buying Votes

Seven activists of the Degel HaTorah party were arrested this week on charges that they paid Arabs to vote for it in last November’s elections.

The ultra-Orthodox party has cried foul.

The accused include two members of the Bnei Brak town council and a member of the town council of Ofakim, in the Negev. They reportedly confessed and were released on bail.

Degel’s inexplicable electoral successes in a number of Arab villages raised suspicion of fraud, prompting a police investigation.

But Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, one of Degel’s two Knesset members, denied the charges. He said the spectacle of the police “following us from village to village was an anti-democratic act.”

The police said that in the Arab village of Fureidis, where 30 voters cast ballots for Degel, some have admitted they were paid between 100 and 150 shekels, then worth $65 to $100.

One Arab voter reportedly said he got 5,000 shekels (more than $3,000) for promising that his entire family would support the Degel HaTorah ticket.

The police also searched the party’s offices, where they allegedly found the stubs of checks paid out to Arab voters.

Degel Knesset member Moshe Gafni holds the right-wing Tehiya party responsible for the police probe. He said if 400 votes were nullified, Degel would lose one Knesset seat and Tehiya, which now has three, would gain a fourth.

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