BEIRUT

Middle East

Decision on whether to indict Israel FM

In this Sunday, May 20, 2012 file photo Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman holds a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, not seen, during their meeting in Jerusalem.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

JERUSALEM: Israel's attorney general is to decide later Thursday whether to press corruption charges against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in a decision that could force his resignation and affect a looming general election.

On November 8, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein promised a decision "within a month" on whether to press charges against Lieberman in a legal document sent to the High Court.

It came in response to a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which had demanded that Weinstein make the long-overdue decision before the January 22 general election.

The alleged offences include "fraud, breach of trust, receiving something by deception, money laundering and tampering with a witness," a justice ministry statement said at the time.

Lieberman has pledged to step down as both a minister and an MP if he is charged.

In cases in which a government minister or a judge is suspected of criminal activity, only the attorney general can decide whether or not to press charges.

Court papers said Lieberman was suspected of receiving "millions of dollars" between 2001 to 2008 when he served as an MP and then as a cabinet minister.

Lieberman has been investigated several times since 1996 on corruption charges, but denies any wrongdoing, claiming the police investigations are politically motivated.

Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party is the second largest in Israel's governing coalition, and is running on a joint list with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party in next month's election.

Lieberman is running as number two on the list.

 

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