JERUSALEM (JTA) – Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was formally charged with fraud and breach of trust.
The indictment, which reportedly includes new and stronger evidence against Liberman, was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday morning. Liberman is charged with advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him.
An abuse of authority accusation could mean the court will add moral turpitude to any conviction. Those convicted of moral turpitude cannot seek public office for at least seven years.
Liberman had waived his parliamentary immunity, seeking a speedy trial that he hoped would be over before the Jan. 22 elections. That no longer appears possible.
The indictment followed questioning of members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel who previously had not been questioned, as well as further questioning of Liberman.
Liberman resigned last week as foreign minister, although he remains a member of the Knesset and the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party.
His resignation came days after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Liberman, dismissing most of the charges but saying he would file the indictment for fraud and breach of trust. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Liberman in 2008.
The filing of the indictment had been postponed in order to question the additional members of the appointments panel.
New evidence includes a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon that reportedly shows Liberman actively lobbying for Ben Aryeh’s appointment as ambassador to Belarus. Ayalon reportedly will testify against Liberman during the trial.
Liberman announced recently that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the January elections. The party is running on a joint candidates’ list with the ruling Likud Party. Ayalon has stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Liberman stepping down.