Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pled not guilty on charges of fraud and breach of trust at the start of his trial at the Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Sunday noon.Lieberman, who is incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu' s political ally and No. 2 on their joint Likud-Beytenu party roster, has been indicted in December over charges of fraud and breach of trust in the unlawful appointment of Ze'ev Ben Arye as Israel's ambassador to Latvia.
Magistrate judge read the indictment to Lieberman on charges of fraud and breach of trust, for his alleged part in what was dubbed at as the Belarus Ambassador Affair.After Lieberman pled not guilty to the indictment read against him the remaining part of the short hearing discussed technical details of the proceedings and set the first testimony hearing in the trial to April 25.
Lieberman is suspected of acting within a conflict of interest to promote former Belarus Ambassador Ze'ev Ben Arye to the position of the Latvian Ambassador.That is after Ben Arye apparently disclosed secret police documents to Lieberman, containing information about another investigation held against the latter in a money laundering affair he was suspected of, putting Lieberman at a conflict of interest in Ben Arye's promotion.
Ben Arye was convicted of improper conduct in July and sentenced to four months of community service.The State's Attorney stated at the beginning of the trial that if Lieberman is found guilty the judges will seek jail time, as set by the Israeli law.
Before Sunday's hearing, a member of Lieberman's defense team told Xinhua that they are optimistic about the chances of an acquittal and Lieberman is as well and hope for a speedy trial.According to local reports, Netanyahu, who is currently working to form a new government following the Jan. 22 elections, is keeping the foreign affairs portfolio for Lieberman after his trial.
Lieberman's political career hangs on the balance awaiting the results of the trial. Lieberman, on his part, has expressed his confidence the trial will end without guilt or moral turpitude, paving the way for him to resume his role as foreign minister.During the trial, Lieberman cannot sit in the cabinet but he can continue his work in the Knesset (parliament). Last week, Lieberman was appointed as the temporary head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee.
If the judges find Lieberman guilty and find moral turpitude in his actions he will have to resign and will not be able to serve in public offices.