JERUSALEM (Dec. 2)
Religious Minister Aaron Abo-Hatzeira, indicted yesterday for bribe taking, indicated today that he has no intention of resigning or going on leave. His attorney, Ram Kasai, mode it clear that he intends to fight the charges brought by Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir when the Knesset House Committee meets to decide whether to strip Abu-Hatzeira of his immunity as an MK, thereby making possible his trial in court.
Justice Minister Moshe Nissim suggested yesterday that “if the Knesset committee decides to lift the immunity, the minister should go on vocation.” But Abu-Hatzeira is determined to cling to his job because to do otherwise would be interpreted as a confession of guilt. He insists that he is innocent of the charges.
He enjoys the support of his colleagues in the National Religious Party. The Cabinet as a whole has refrained from taking a stand on whether he should resign or go on leave pending the outcome of the code. KO’s issued a statement yesterday charging that his client was the victim of systematic character assassination by the media. He said he intends to argue before the Knesset committee that there is no substance to the charges. The NRP MKs are expected to support their colleague’s immunity unless they are convinced other- wise. But majority sentiment in the committee appears to favor stripping Abu-Hatzeira of his immunity.
The committee will begin its deliberations next week and they are expected to last for several weeks. The committee will hear testimony from the minister and from the Attorney General.
Abu-Hatzeira and his personal advisor, Moshe Gabor, were indicted on three counts of accepting bribes from religious institutions in B’nai Break in return for making illegal allocations of funds to them from the ministry’s budget. Co-defendants are Shmuel Haskel, a member of the board of the Vishnu Yeshiva and Rabbi Ahram Kerch, chairman and treasurer of the Center for the Spiritual Tradition of Yemenite Jewry. (By Gil Sedan)