Israel indicts former foreign minister Lieberman

Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:45am EST
 
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By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman was charged on Sunday with fraud and breach of trust, allegations that prompted his resignation as foreign minister two weeks ago, justice officials said.

Lieberman, who has denied the accusations, remains head of the Yisrael Beitenu party that has formed a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party ahead of a January 22 parliamentary election.

Israeli justice officials said Lieberman was indicted on charges relating to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had illegally given him information about a police investigation against him.

Under Israeli law, conviction on the fraud and breach of trust charges could disqualify Lieberman from holding a cabinet post in the next government.

Lieberman, who lives in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, has stoked controversy by questioning the loyalties of Israel's 1.5 million Arab citizens.

His comments have drawn accusations of racism but have also given him a large electoral following beyond his Russian-speaking base.

Earlier this month, he angered the European Union by saying it had not sufficiently condemned calls by Hamas Islamists for Israel's destruction, likening this to Europe's failure to stop Nazi genocide against Jews during World War Two.

The European Union foreign policy chief called the comments offensive and reiterated the bloc's commitment to Israel's security.   Continued...

 
Avigdor Lieberman speaks at a conference for young members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party in Tel Aviv December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Amir Cohen